The 2021-22 enacted New York State budget included language for the 2021-22 school year stating that each school district receiving a foundation aid increase of more than 10 percent, or $10,000,000, must post to its district website prior to July 1 of each school year a plan for the use of these funds to address student performance and need. Herkimer received a foundation aid increase of 11.7 percent.
The budget language states that prior to posting the plan, each district must seek public comment from parents and guardians, teachers, and other stakeholders, and take such comments into account in the development of the plan.
The district sought feedback from stakeholders on the following:
- Addressing achievement gaps and student social-emotional health;
- Providing academic supports for students;
- Providing to English language learners, students with disabilities, and students experiencing homelessness;
- Reducing class sizes; and
- Increasing our graduation rate.
The Herkimer CSD also sought feedback from parents, teachers, and other stakeholders regarding how to use federal stimulus money connected with the American Rescue Plan (ARP). According to the U.S. Department of Education, the ARP funds must be used to address the many impacts of COVID-19 on education. These grant-based funds are not permanent and carry specific requirements.
School districts must publish how they plan to use those funds in regard to: restoring in-person instruction; addressing the impact of COVID-19 on students; meeting students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs; offering after-school and extended learning programs; and more.
The district plans to use the federal stimulus funds in conjunction with increased foundation aid to build a sustainable model of instruction which:
- Address student achievement gaps found in local, state, and federal testing data and graduation rate data, as well as providing all teachers and mental health professionals with professional development in best practices to meet the needs of their students;
- Provide academic support for all students including English language learners, students with disabilities, and students experiencing homelessness;
- Reduce class size;
- Increase the graduation rate by removing barriers to graduation and provides academic support and credit recovery options;
- Support the social, emotional, and mental health needs of students; and
- Extend the school day for all elementary students, and increase the instructional options for all students in grades 6-12.
The district will increase the instructional time available to all students in Pre-K-5 by lengthening the elementary school day by 30 minutes. The district has also increased the number of classroom elementary teachers by 4.0 FTE to reduce class size to operate under COVID protocols, and to provide more individualized instruction to all elementary students. Other additions/changes include:
- Adding an elementary special education position to the staff to provide additional Tier III academic interventions as well as additional resource room and/or consultant teaching opportunities for students;
- Adding a physical education teacher to the elementary staff to provide more individualized instruction and to operate under COVID protocols;
- Developing a more robust family engagement program enhancing the district elementary Title I program; and
- Offering intramural opportunities for elementary students which will enhance their physical and mental health and wellness.
The district will increase the instructional time available to students in grades 6-12 by increasing the number of instructional opportunities by 15 percent. The district will also add two additional academic intervention teachers in grades 6-8 who will offer academic interventions during school and immediately before or after school. Other additions/changes include:
- Adding an additional position in either counseling, social work, or psychology to support the social emotional needs of students in grades 6-12;
- Restoring a music position to the high school building to restore all secondary vocal and instrumental music programs;
- Developing a secondary family engagement program; and
- Offering intramural opportunities for students in grades 6-12 which will enhance their physical and mental health and wellness.
As stated above, the district will increase the instructional time available to all students by lengthening the elementary day by 30 minutes for every student in Pre-K-5, and increasing the number of instructional opportunities available to students in grades 6-12 by 15 percent. The district will also:
- Offer counseling services before and/or after school to all students that need such services and provide tutoring, mentoring, and academic interventions to students who need such services;
- Offer both academic intervention and enrichment programs in the summer; and
- Support professional development opportunities for teachers and mental health staff in best practices for meeting the needs of our students.
The district will expend increased foundation aid and Federal dollars in such a way as to build a sustainable model of student programming in grades Pre-K-12, which may continue beyond the expiration of the federal stimulus monies in 2025. The district will review the ARP expenditure plan with the Board of Education at least semiannually.
The initial plan to expend ARP funds is as follows:
- 2021-22: $1,060,800 or 32.7%
- 2022-23: $1,373,182 or 42.3%
- 2023-24: $810,546 or 25%
Total Expensed: $3,244,528
A total of 20 percent or $648,906 must be spent on gap closing, extended school days, and summer programs.
Also, anticipated foundation aid increases will offset decreased use of federal funds in subsequent years.