Simplified: The Sioux Falls School District received tens of millions in federal coronavirus relief funds. Here's how they're spending that money, and an explanation of why some expenses are here to stay.
Why it matters
- Federal funds came in three different waves over the last two years of the pandemic – totaling about $58 million. Add in an extra $12 million appropriated from the state's COVID relief fund money, and that's an additional $70 million into Sioux Falls schools' coffers.
- Most of that money – specifically the $58 million in direct federal funding – has to be spent by fall 2024. And large chunks of change need to be spent even sooner.
- The funds have been spent on everything from improved air filtration to hand sanitizer to additional incentives to recruit substitute teachers. And some of the costs – about $3.65 million – are ongoing.
"There's a lot in salaries and benefits," Director of Federal Programs Kirk Zeeck said of the ongoing costs.
What has money been spent on so far?
About $4.5 million went to cover so-called "indirect costs," which Zeeck said includes things like energy costs and other qualifying expenses.
The remaining nearly $54 million has touched nearly every aspect of the school district from remote learning to after-school activities to health to facilities.
Here are some examples of how the money was (or will be) spent:
- $2 million on an electronic air cleaning system in the HVAC to kill bacteria and mold spores
- $1.6 million to recruit and incentivize substitute teachers
- $4.2 million on elementary reading teachers and coaches
- $4.3 million on new "interactive display boards" technology in classrooms
- $2.4 million on additional counseling staff for middle and high schoolers
- $225,000 on additional nursing staff
- $1.3 million on laptops for students and teachers
- $2.2 million on Virtual Academy teachers
- $150,000 on personal protective equipment
- $175,000 to redo the district website (more on that here).
What items need ongoing funding?
Zeeck shared a list of 40 items that school board members will have to decide on whether to give ongoing funds to or cut from the district's offering.
A decent chunk of that ongoing spending would keep added employees including IT professionals, counselors, administrators, nurses and reading teachers.
A number of line items also relate to student activities and funding for things like transportation and coaching, and a couple are related to ongoing tech expenses.
What's on the chopping block?
Items on the list presented to the board were categorized in order of importance, as ranked by district administrators.
- The farther down the list, the lower the ranking.
Low on the list (and not in the "recommended for funding" category) were:
- additional expenses for coaching and transportation for 7th and 8th grade boys and girls soccer,
- increased high school clerical work
- and about $525,000 in spending on creating options for students who are suspended.
What happens next?
School board members will continue to work on the budget over the coming weeks and months before its final adoption (usually in July).