SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – More than 11 months since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools and cost districts thousands of dollars to properly implement virtual platforms and safely reopen doors, a bit of financial relief is on the way. 

Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy and his administration announced that $1.2 billion in federal CARES Act funding will be allocated to all districts across the state. The South Plainfield School District is expected to receive a little over $1.1 million.

"We are grateful to receive the additional funding, however, the impact the pandemic has had on our students will be felt for many years to come," said Superintendent Dr. Tansey Lishak, telling TAPinto that the district is 'limited in how the funds can be utilized.' 

"The state has allowed for use of funding to support student remediation programs, enhancement of academic programing, technology and infrastructure needs, as well as mental health supports and maintenance and facility compliance and upgrades for safety," she said.                            

Enacted in December 2020, the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act includes funding sources for Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and provides funds for the state to administer, as needed, to address issues related to COVID-19. 

Specifically, section 313 of the CRRSA Act provides for supplemental appropriations for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II) with the core purpose of providing direct money to LEAs to address the areas most impacted by the disruption and closure of schools caused by COVID-19. A total of $991,720 in ESSER II funding is expected to be allocated to the South Plainfield School District.

The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has also designated $75 million from the state set-aside to establish the Learning Acceleration Grant; 75-percent of those funds will go to support research-based academic enrichment activities such as summer learning academies, school year learning acceleration academies, and 1:1 tutoring and the remaining 25-percent used for activities that support the broader learning ecosystem, such as evidence-based strategies to cultivate a growth mindset in students, professional learning for educators in the use of formative assessments, and the use of extended instructional time to effectively scaffold students’ learning, as well integrate parents and educators into a multi-tiered system of supports. A total of $63,644 in Learning Acceleration Grant monies will be allocated to South Plainfield.

Additionally, the NJDOE has designated $30 million from the state set-aside for the provision of mental health services and supports. These funds, of which South Plainfield will receive $45,000, will support schools in building or enhancing a continuum of school-based mental health services for students, in coordination with existing county and local services, and supports for educators.

"As we move forward, the district will assess the needs of our students, faculty, and community to ensure we are meeting and supporting the success of the district in all areas that impact our school community," said Tansey Lishak, adding, "As a district, we have made every effort to work in tandem with the school community to support the students academically and emotionally. We will continue to put the needs of the students first, ensuring our dedicated faculty and staff have the tools and training necessary to maximize student success."

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