FRAMINGHAM – Last night, August 4, the City of Framingham’s School Committee voted 9-0 to approve a plan for the American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARP) $14.4 million in federal funding allocations for the Framingham Public Schools (FPS).

Fully aligned with the District’s Strategic Plan, School Improvement Plans at all individual schools, and Massachusetts educational standards, these allocations are focused on mitigating the detrimental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting student’s learning loss, employees, social-emotional behavioral health, recreation, and healthy school communities.

The intention and rules in the ARP Act provides for funding for school districts to respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Funds may be used for a wide range of activities to address needs arising from the pandemic including efforts to develop strategies and implement public health protocols including, to the greatest extent practicable, policies in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on reopening and operating schools to effectively maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff to get students back in the classroom safely for in-person learning, to safely keep schools open once students are back, and to address the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of all students. At least 20% of the award must be spent on mitigating lost instructional time. Funded strategies must also respond to students’ social and emotional needs and account for the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on underserved students.

“The American Rescue Plan Act – ESSER III process has been a positive one and the stakeholder input has been much appreciated,” said Lincoln Lynch IV, FPS Executive Director of Finance and Operations. “The District held multiple public hearings for input on the ESSER III funding which is available until December 2024 and sent a survey seeking feedback from school staff, parent teacher organizations and community partners. Feedback included requests for funding to support and expand programming to address learning loss, upgrades to address air quality and air conditioning, tutoring support, social emotional support, increased transportation, parent teacher organization support, community partner support, preschool expansion and funding to increase offerings at our new District Welcome Center. On behalf of the Superintendent Dr. Tremblay, the District looks forward to providing federal dollars to support our students and staff over the next three years as we return from a period of time where students and staff missed out on important learning time and social interaction.”

“This plan allocates federal funding in a compassionate, structured, and fiscally responsible way to maximize this critical allocation in order to support students and staff through a variety of pandemic related recovery efforts over the next three school years,” said Adam Freudberg, Chair of the Framingham School Committee, District 4. “Implementation begins now in advance of the first day of school on September 1st. I am grateful to the District leadership, staff, and community members who provided input into the plan, and thank the entire School Committee for the total team effort over multiple months alongside staff to develop a shared vision for how to best utilize this funding. Finally, thank you to the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation, in particular Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Edward Markey, and Assistant Speaker of the House Katherine Clark, for their advocacy to secure this funding for our school district.”

The FPS Plan approved by the School Committee includes:

Student Summer Programming in 2021, 2022, and 2023 – $1,750,000 – The impact of COVID-19 has caused financial hardship for many families.The district is committing funds to ensuring free summer programming through FY22 along with additional funding in FY23 and FY24 to substantially reduce summer program costs. Expanded program offerings were offered in the summer of 2021 and will continue to be made available to address concerns related to student social emotional health and academic needs.
BRYT Mental Health Services Program Expansion to Fuller and Walsh Middle Schools – $629,731 – The Brookline Center for Community Mental Health’s BRYT Program provides mental health services and support, and will begin at Fuller and Walsh Middle Schools. BRYT is already at Cameron Middle School, and now expands to the other two middle schools. BRYT will work to align its support with existing school and district initiatives related to school culture and climate, social-emotional learning, and mental health. Funds cover three years of services and a district-wide assessment.
Elementary School Reading Teachers to Mitigate Learning Loss – $1,055,804 – Elementary School Reading Teachers will support students in grades K-2 who are struggling with foundational skills in the area of Reading due to the pandemic.
Innovation Recovery Grants for Every School – $150,000 – The 2021-2022 Innovation Recovery Grant is a new opportunity for School Councils and School PTOs to join together to advance school improvement efforts related to learning loss, social-emotional mental health needs, or supplemental after school programs. The intent is for this grant to be a strategic investment opportunity aimed at supporting school-driven pilot initiatives that extend student learning opportunities and which are not included in the operating budget. Click here to read a memo with additional information on the goals and process for School Councils/PTOs to apply.

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Three Elementary School Playground Replacements – $441,266 – Based on a safety needs assessment of all playgrounds by the Buildings & Grounds Department, the priority order and projects chosen are the following. ADA compliant components will be included in each of the the new structures:
1. Harmony Grove Elementary School – Two current small structures and two sets of swings will be replaced. The small structure closer to the parking lot has a broken climber on the structure and efforts to replace it to date have been unsuccessful. ADA compliant components will be included in the new structure. The swings replaced in 2018 will remain.

2. Brophy Elementary School – The current structure was built in 1999 and now has infrastructure issues with stairs and climbers.

3. Potter Road Elementary School – The structure was installed in 1998. Due to the age there are some non-compliant issues like climber entrance widths and transfer points to be addressed.

Air Quality Improvements District Wide – $5,000,000 – Air quality improvements identified in this line item extend the current offering of improved air filtration and portable air purifiers to build upon 2020-21 school year investments and continue to reduce COVID-19 risk. One time expenses included in this funding allocation include air conditioning solutions at schools where no air conditioning is present. At this time, only half of public school facilities have air conditioning. There has been a long-standing need to identify and remediate individual “hot spots” in schools across the district, especially during late summer/early fall and late spring/early summer when classroom temperatures escalate beyond the outside air temperature.

Additional Afterschool Transportation for Student Enrichment and Tutoring – $43,200 – Brophy Elementary School has many students that do not live in the area of the school. The addition of late buses would provide transportation home at no cost for students participating in out of school enrichment and tutoring.
Tutoring Services for Students to Mitigate Learning Loss – $1,116,585 – COVID-19 led to unprecedented loss in time on learning. To provide students with the optimal opportunity to re-engage in school, funding over three years will be directed to provide targeted groups of students with academic tutoring support. Priority will be given to students and schools facing significant gaps in opportunity and achievement.
Community Partner Support for Student Social Emotional Support – $350,000 – Our youth serving community partners have continued to provide programming and enrichment to our students and families throughout the pandemic. This funding will provide an opportunity for them to submit a proposal of a new and innovative program that will support students learning loss through social emotional programming.
Professional Development for Staff – $600,000 – Professional Development for staff is essential to our growth as a district. FPS is intent on providing talent development opportunities to all of our employees, not just our teachers. Moreover, the district seeks to promote more training of diversity, equity and inclusion to all staff regardless of role. This professional development will help our staff learn to help the engagement and acceleration of student learning to make up for the disruptions that have occurred over the past two academic years due to the pandemic.

Health Office Expansion to the FPS Welcome Center – $200,000 – One-time expenses to help with the design and development of a Health Suite at the Framingham Public Schools Welcome Center to offer basic physician services that prevent the timely enrollment of students (e.g., immunizations, physicals, etc.) and basic dental hygiene services which are often neglected and which impact school attendance. This is a partnership opportunity with the medical community in Framingham and which has already gained attention and support.
Preschool Expansion Support – $250,000 – In our district efforts to expand early childhood opportunities to all Framingham 4-year olds, this line item for Preschool Expansion Support is directly aimed at training for our partner staff at the YMCA and Framingham State University. Additionally, it provides for the addition of student support services through contracted related service providers for students as needs emerge at our partner sites, including transportation services to and from BLOCKS Preschool, if necessary, for service delivery to students.
One Time Employment and Building Enhancements – $1,700,000 – This will support activities that are necessary to maintain operation and keep staff employed. The plan for this is a work in progress and will be on a future agenda.
Total Allocated to Date of the $14,404,743: $13,286,584
Available Balance to Be Determined – $1,018,159

The American Rescue Plan Act spending plan was developed by the District and School Committee with transparency and community feedback in mind, with public outreach, a survey to staff, community partners, and Parent Teacher Organizations, School Committee Meetings with additional public comment periods and public hearings, participation in the Strategic Initiatives and Financial Oversight Committee’s ARPA Summit, and web-based communications from the spring of 2021 to the present. The vote was scheduled for August 4th in order to have a plan finalized and in place for the first day of school on September 1st, and to meet federal reporting requirements.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Public Law 117-2, was enacted on March 11, 2021. The Education portion of ARP is known as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER III or ARP ESSER). Information from The White House and U.S. Treasury Department was used in this document.


Original story can be found HERE