Prairie Grove Schools consider covid relief money

PRAIRIE GROVE — The School District will be able to receive $736,000 from the federal covid-19 relief package approved by Congress in December, according to Reba Holmes, superintendent.

Holmes told School Board members staff started looking at eligible expenses for the covid money and found $700,000 goes “very quickly.”

The money is part of a $900 billion federal package that provides almost $82 billion for general education and high education across the country. Arkansas is to receive $558 million for school districts in the state from the federal money.

Holmes said Prairie Grove will be reimbursed for qualified costs. Similar to the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) passed by Congress in March 2020, reimbursable costs include food security, technology and systemic procedures.

The new package also has facilities as an eligible cost for projects that would make improvements in areas such as air quality to make schools safer for students and staff.

David Kellogg, assistant superintendent, said he’s already looking at rooftop HVAC units and how newer models would improve air quality.

“We can do a lot for this district,” Kellogg said, “and it would make a great difference for our building fund.”

Kellogg said he plans to complete an assessment of all rooftop units.

Other ideas for the money, Holmes said, include technology and looking at ways to help students catch up and recover credit, whether through some type of summer school program or other options.

Holmes said the district can use the “systemic procedures” part of the funding to pay for covid-19 leave for employees who have to isolate or quarantine because of the virus.

Traci Ashley, chairwoman of the district’s Personnel Policy Committee, presented a recommendation to the board to update the covid-19 emergency leave policy to provide 10 days of eligible covid-19 leave for employees, retroactive to Jan. 1.

The CARES Act provided 10 days of eligible covid leave for the first semester for school employees, and this will provide another 10 days for the rest of the school year, Holmes said. If covid leave is exhausted, employees would be able to use other leave, such as sick leave and personal leave.

The board approved the covid leave recommendation and also approved another recommendation from the Personnel Policy Committee to increase the unused sick leave pay from $55 to $85 (the same as substitute teacher pay), effective July 1. This would be given to employees who have more than 90 days of sick leave.

Holmes said out of 225 employees, only about 30 employees have accrued more than 90 days of sick leave.

The board recognized Michelle Johnson for receiving the Sam’s Furniture Above and Beyond Award for the month of January. Johnson works with the food nutrition staff at Prairie Grove Elementary School.

The board went into executive session for about an hour for an evaluation of the superintendent. When it returned to public session, the board adjourned the meeting without anyone making a motion.

Holmes said the board has asked for her reflection on the past year and her goals for the future and she has presented that information to them.

After the meeting, board President J.C. Dobbs said Holmes’ contract will be on the February agenda.

Lynn Kutter may be reached by email at [email protected].

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