Beatrice Public Schools planning for use of Esser Funds

BEATRICE – Beatrice Public Schools are planning how they’ll use federal funding the district expects to receive.  A second round of support through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund Act….known as Esser….will provide about $1.3 million to District 15.

Superintendent Jason Alexander says a significant part of that is planned for mental health services for students.
"We're really looking at fifth grade through about ninth grade. That's where we had the most recommendations for student health from counselors. Looking at the data we had the most responses at that age level."

Alexander said the district will apply about $400,000 of the federal relief toward technology in school buildings. That would be used for one-to-one Chromebooks at Beatrice High School along with upgrading projectors.  "Making sure we have all the distance learning capabilities to make sure that, if we are on remote learning in the future we have the ability to do that....and students have connectivity."

A third area funding will be used is in professional staff development and addressing learning loss that occurred during the pandemic. Curriculum updates will also be supported by Esser funds, along with about $200,000 in heating, ventilation and cooling improvements… mostly at the high school.

"Hopefully through that process we prevent the spread of any viruses that may be there and improve the fresh air return for students and staff."  Alexander says the Esser funds must be spent by September of 2023.

During a Beatrice School Board committee-level meeting Thursday night, board members heard about district upgrades this summer….including work on the track at the House of Orange, asphalt and concrete repair at the high school….HVAC controllers and fire alarm projects at the middle school…and maintenance updates on portable classrooms at Paddock Lane Elementary.

This month, the Beatrice School Board voted to remove the mandate on the wearing of masks in school buildings. Alexander says some students continue to wear them.

"The day after (the vote) I toured all the buildings and we were at about fifty percent of the students wearing them...and I think now, we're probably down more around the area of twenty percent. The students that are highly involved in extracurricular activities and understand the consequences of what could happen if they did come across a positive case...are still wearing the masks so they have a level of protection against quarantine measures. I would say that equates to about twenty percent of students."

The district and its board had fielded regular criticism from a small group of parents about the mandating of masks.