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$24 million CARES money continues to benefit Emanuel public schools

Stimulus payments have been a hot topic since the first round was okayed by the federal government back in 2020. However, those same funds have proven to be extremely beneficial for the local public school district.

The Chronicle first sat down with former superintendent Dr. Kevin Judy back in May to discuss the funds received by Emanuel County Schools. When new superintendent Scotty Hattaway was hired by the Emanuel County Board of Education later that month, one of the most pressing questions asked of him by The Chronicle during an interview to introduce him to the public related to those funds as well.

At the time, Hattaway, as a newcomer, wasn’t in a position to knowledgeably answer for the district’s plan for the funds. He did, however, say early on that the district would continue to responsibly manage all financials, including the monies handed down as part of pandemic relief efforts.

This past Friday, The Chronicle revisited with Hattaway the district’s CARES funding.

Emanuel County Schools has received a total of $24 million to date. These allotments have been spread out across three rounds.

CARES I was a lump sum of $1.6 million. CARES II, another $6.9 million, was received next.

As of the May interview with Dr. Judy, the amount of CARES III had been designated, but it had yet to be drawn down by the district.

Now, CARES III funding—the largest of the three pots of monies, coming in at $15 million—is able to be requested by Emanuel County Schools.

The new superintendent reviewed with The Chronicle almost a week ago what has been accomplished so far and what is coming down the pipe, thanks to the funds.

In short, the spendings have been used entirely, in one way or another, to help fill in the various sorts of holes created by COVID. In turn, these dollars have allowed for other fund accounts to be used in different and better ways.

Additionally, Hattaway mentioned that CARES III specifically has allowed for the addition of various positions inside the public schools here in Emanuel. (This is an addition to what was previously reported by this publication nine months ago in regard to Dr. Judy’s interview as these funds, along with CARES II, weren’t available at the time.)

Here’s a recap of what the first two CARES allotments have done on the local level.

The first round, was drawn down (or, in layman’s terms, “used” by the district) during the previous school year. These monies were primarily used for masks, sanitizer, gloves, and other necessities to combat coronavirus.

In addition, CARES I allowed for purchases and upgrades vitally relevant to COVID. For example, work was performed on the HVAC units to improve the air quality inside the various buildings. The school nutrition department also received equipment and items used to ensure safe, quality food preparation.

CARES II money, according to Hattaway, has been drawn down since the initial interview with his predecessor. These funds have been used in a way perhaps most understandbly related to COVID, meaning these federal funds have allowed the school district to bridge the gap between students struggling as a result of the pandemic (in whatever way/s/ that may be) and their learning.

An example of this is the plethora of virtual learning equipment and software now available to the district, which, in turn, has given to the student population.

The newest and largest pool of COVID relief funds, CARES III, continues the initiative from the round before and has proven to in its own way to be extremely useful.

Total, Emanuel County Schools has funded more than 15 new positions district-wide. These include a connections teacher, a data coach for each school, multi-tiered paraprofessionals, another physical education teacher, a few special education teachers, an early intervention program teacher, an instructional technology facilitator, tutors, a system social worker, a school nurse coordinator, a custodial supervisor, and more. These funds fund the positions for two years, and an evaluation instrument will be employed later to determine each position’s longevity thereafter.

All in all, Hattaway says the amount of COVID relief funds received by Emanuel County Schools is comparable to that of other systems, although admittedly it is a lot of money. On that note, however, he realizes (like Dr. Judy mentioned in his interview) that it won’t take long to use the funds. That, in a nutshell, lends to the reason he is so pleased to have joined a school district and a board of education that is dedicated to being fiscally responsible and, above all else, working in the best interest of the student. When asked what he is most proud of accomplishing with these funds since the beginning of his tenure here, Hattaway gave a more personal answer, praising the “perserverance and adversity” of everyone involved from the top down.

Should any significant accomplishments related to COVID relief funds materialize, look for coverage to continue in The Chronicle.

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