Pioneer School District is utilizing funds from federal stimulus packages to help stem the after -effects of COVID-19, the Board of Education learned at its Oct. 5 regular meeting.

Assistant Superintendent Nick Silvaroli said Pioneer applied for and received $2.26 million in grants from the Coronavirus Response and Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), and has applied for just over $8 million from the American Rescue Plan (ARP). 

Allowable uses emphasize non-recurring expenses associated with preventing/responding to COVID-19, along with addressing student learning loss, preparing schools for reopening, and projects to improve air quality in schools. 

In 2020, Pioneer received a grant of $635,756 in the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act.

He said the new CRRSA funding will help the district continue funding professional staff salaries first allocated under the CARES Act. In addition, Pioneer used funds to hire nine high school/middle school cleaners that were formerly contract staff. 

The grant also covered district expenses and services related to facility cleaning, personal protective gear, COVID screening equipment, maintenance, reconfiguring classrooms, school reopening and remote learning technology.

Under the American Rescue Plan, Pioneer would look to add new professional staff with funding that will cover salary and benefits for the current year and the next two school years.  The positions are two speech therapists and two elementary counselors. The plan also covers salaries and benefits for 10 cleaner positions over that same period, and an addition computer technology assistant for 2022-23 and 2023-24.

If the grant is approved, funds would also help cover the cost of supplies and materials used to help prevent COVID spread, as well as non-related Project Lead the Way equipment, wellness room equipment, a replacement vehicle for the School Resource Officer program, and Buildings and Grounds equipment.

Mr. Silvaroli said the grant could cover the $1 million cost of constructing a new restroom facility at the high school athletic fields. The current restroom serving the turf field is located in the maintenance garage and is undersized, he said. A new restroom would be more private, have more capacity, and would be designed in such a way to prevent disease transmission. It could be located to serve both the turf field and the baseball field. Mr. Silvaroli shared an architect's design with the board.

In other news, the solicited board members' input on the prospect of another round of capital improvements. The last several projects have been voted on by district residents every two years, and 2022 marks two years since the current project was approved. Superintendent Ben Halsey said if the board wants to proceed, the planning would have to begin soon.

Agenda from Oct. 5