Ryan Curry, 10th grade assistant principal at Tupelo High School, checks a student’s information on his computer as the Tupelo Public School District hands out Chromebooks for students without a computer so they are able to access classwork from home.

TUPELO • Tupelo Public School District and Lee County School District have outlined initial plans for how they intend to spend millions of dollars in CARES Act funds.

TPSD was awarded $1,746,285 in CARES Act funding, while LCSD will receive $1,039,760.

The $2 trillion CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities Act) was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27. It includes $13.23 billion to be disbursed nationwide via the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

Tupelo’s CARES Act funds will be used to pay for improvements in three primary areas.

The first is distance learning, which includes the purchase of the district’s new learning management system, Canvas, professional development for that system and the purchase of any other necessary instructional platforms.

Funds will also be used to purchase additional technology like Chromebooks, chargers and additional laptop carts. The district has already purchased 3,730 new Chromebooks so that every student K-12 will have access to one.

Funding will also be used to enhance connectivity in the district by purchasing WiFi extenders so that students can access the internet in school parking lots if needed and MiFi hotspots for teachers who lack internet access at their homes.

Corlis Curry, director of Federal Programs, is writing Tupelo’s funding application, which will be submitted to the Mississippi Department of Education, based on meetings with district administrators who developed a list of things the district would like to purchase with the funds.

Once the application is approved, she will also make sure TPSD is in compliance with MDE guidelines and using the funds in the correct way.

LCSD Superintendent Coke Magee said a portion of his district’s funds will be used to increase technology infrastructure, starting with the purchase of additional Chromebooks so that every student K-12 will have a laptop to use.

Funds will also be used to sanitize school facilities on a continual basis throughout the 2020-21 school year, and will include the purchase of supplies and professional cleaning services.

Other purchases to help follow Mississippi Department of Health and CDC recommendations will be made with the funds, for example, the purchase of classroom furniture that is more conducive to recommended social distancing practices, Magee said.

The deadline for districts to submit their funding applications to MDE outlining how they intend to use CARES Act funding is due on July 10.

Questions that must be addressed in the application include: how districts identified funding needs resulting from COVID-19, a timeline of when services will be provided, the extent to which schools intend to use funds to promote remote learning, how districts will address learning gaps resulting from disruption to education services, how districts will provide equal opportunities and promote the expectations of meeting high standards to students, teachers and other beneficiaries.

In addition to paying for future projects, CARES Act funds can also be used to cover any costs incurred due to COVID-19 on or after March 13, 2020 when a federal emergency was declared due to the virus.

Districts will have until Sept. 30, 2022 to obligate the funds to be spent.

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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