Bay District Schools will receive almost $25 million in ESSER II Funds

Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 9:39 PM CDT
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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Bay District Schools will receive $24.9 million in ‘Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund’, also known as ‘ESSER II Funds’, to help keep schools safely open. This money will be used for the next school year and the following year. But, it comes with strict guidelines.

On Wednesday, Superintendent Bill Husfelt held a press conference talking about where exactly the money will be going.

“$5.2 million goes directly to charter schools. They’re about 20% of our population. They have the same requirements we have, what they can spend it on,” Husfelt said.

The other 80% will be divided up. Some going toward sanitizing and disinfecting classrooms and buildings, hiring custodians, and providing mental health services. But the biggest chunk will be used for what’s called “learning losses.” This will mostly support summer school programs.

“There’s a lot of students either came late to school because they were fearful, stayed home. A lot of different things. A lot of students have issues and challenges going home. This also is big in bringing them back up to the level where we all want them to be successful in school,” Husfelt said.

At the same time, the Bay District Schools tax referendum is coming up on the municipal ballot in April. The money from this tax would go toward teacher and staff salaries, as well as other district educational programs.

A group called ‘Bay County Taxpayers’, led by local doctor Jon Ward, spoke out against the millage rate increase saying ESSER funds can cover those costs.

“That amount of federal funding is unprecedented and has never come into the school system before. So, my thing always goes back to if you’ve got more money than you’ve ever had, why do you need more money,” Dr. Ward said.

But the ESSER II Funds cannot be spent on reoccurring dollars.

“In other words, pay raises. Or pay for employees that you got to keep paying for,” Husfelt said.

“So granted, let’s say you can’t use it on salary. Give the teachers a bonus every year for the next three years. That’s the equivalent of a salary increase,” Dr. Ward said.

That’s something those for and against the proposed tax increase will have to weigh at the polls come April.

Husfelt added the district expects to receive more state money to help work through COVID-19 impacts.

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