With House Bill (HB) 5 appropriating $30 million for school districts affected by December’s tornado outbreak, leadership from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) met with superintendents on Feb. 1 to discuss the process to request funds and disbursement.
Through HB 5, the Kentucky General Assembly provided these funds to KDE through the West Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies (SAFE) fund, which provides $200 million to support districts, local governments and other agencies affected by the storms and tornadoes.
During the department’s previous huddle with impacted superintendents, KDE staff advised them that the department would create a simple application for districts to submit their needs under the permissible uses of the funds. The money may be used to provide wraparound services, such as tutoring and mental health supports for students and families, and assistance with additional transportation costs.
On Feb. 1, that application went live on the KDE’s State Grants webpage.
“It is a very short application,” explained KDE Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney. “We’re really not trying to burden you with administrative work to access the funds.”
In addition to helping with wraparound services and additional transportation costs, KDE can transfer a portion of the $30 million to the state School Facilities Construction Commission (SFCC) to help repair damaged school buildings.
“We are asking districts to respond in each of those three categories,” said Kinney.
Through the application, districts will provide KDE with information related to eligible needs and an estimate of the amount needed to assist in its recovery efforts. For the wraparound services and transportation costs, KDE will be reimbursing the amount districts already have spent. For the damage to school buildings, districts will need to provide details of the damage along with the expected amount for repairs. KDE then will work with the SFCC, which will administer the repair process.
Applications and requests for reimbursement will be processed as received. Districts are asked to provide information in the application for anticipated costs through June 30.
Brian Perry, KDE’s director of government relations, provided the superintendents on the call with a brief update on a bill the department is tracking.
State Rep. Myron Dossett introduced HB 397 late last week. In its current form, the bill waives up to 15 student attendance days for districts that were closed due to the tornadoes. The waived days also would count as contract days for school personnel.
While the bill has only been introduced and has not yet been assigned a committee, Perry said the department will continue to work with legislators to provide the impacted districts with as many flexibilities as possible.
Updates from Districts
Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass began Tuesday’s meeting by asking superintendents to provide updates on what is happening within their communities.
Most district leaders said the ongoing tornado recovery efforts are going well and local communities are moving forward as best as they can.
Last week, with the help of KDE staff, the General Assembly recognized the efforts of school personnel in the impacted districts for their immediate actions to assist and ensure the safety of students and their families.
Gretchen Wetzel, executive director of the West Kentucky Educational Cooperative, praised KDE for honoring the work of superintendents throughout this challenging time.
“If nothing else, the message should be that our schools are the heart of our community and these folks really lifted up their districts and communities during this time,” Wetzel said.
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