West Virginia’s public schools are set to receive over $760 million dollars in federal funding to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee says he knows where those funds should go first. This money from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) provides an incredible opportunity for county school systems to make lasting changes that benefit our students and educators. This is a chance for educators to get creative with classroom activities.
One of the largest opportunities this funding presents is the ability to update some of the older school buildings. That’s where WVEA members start, according to Lee.
“One of the first places I would look into is the air quality in our classrooms. We have so many older buildings with window A/C units or no ventilation at all,” he said. “This was a major issue we had to deal with during the pandemic.”
There are, however, some restrictions when using the ARP funding for construction projects. There must be a direct tie to COVID. For example, projects like updating the HVAC system, creating outdoor classroom space or making bathrooms touchless would all be approved, however, things like roofing projects or safe school entrances would not.
Certain amounts of the total funding can also only be used for certain things. That breakdown is:
- $175,125,984 minimum for learning loss
- $7,847,950 minimum for summer enrichment
- $7,847,950 minimum for afterschool programs
- $548,220,908 remaining for counties to allocate for allowable uses
Since it is up to the counties how to spend the largest portion of this funding, it is important that you, as WVEA members, are following up with your county board and making sure your voice is heard on how this money should be spent.