Taos Municipal Schools district is about to submit its application for another round of federal funds designed to help schools stay safe and help students get back on track after an 18-month upheaval brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The TMS District will hold a board meeting on Wednesday (Sept. 22) at 6 p.m. to discuss the funding proposal and get input from the community before submitting a final version of the draft budget at the end of October.
Third round of funding
The American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER III) Fund was enacted on March 11, 2021, and provided $122 billion to states and school districts to help safely reopen schools and address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students.
The ARP ESSER III is the third national funding effort of its kind by the U.S. Department of Education. The first was passed under the CARES Act in March 2020, and the second was passed under the CRRSA Act in December 2020.
New Mexico will receive more than $800 million in ARP ESSER III funds, with no less than 90 percent of the funds to be granted to local educational agencies. The federal money will help meet a range of needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, including reopening schools safely and addressing students’ social, emotional, mental health and academic needs.
Funding to Taos schools
Taos Municipal Schools and Charter Schools will receive more than $7,272,000 in ARP ESSER III funds, according to Valerie Trujillo, assistant superintendent of Taos Municipal Schools District.
The district will incur indirect expenses – administrative costs for securing the funds – totaling $346,000 (5 percent of the funds). The remaining $6,925,000 will be distributed at a rate of $2,818 per student.
Anansi Day School, with 190 students, will receive $535,000. Taos Charter School, with 217 students, will receive $611,000. Vista Grande Charter School, with 78 students, will receive $219,000. And Taos Municipal Schools, with 1,972 students, will receive $5,558,000. (All figures have been rounded off).
For other school districts in Taos County, the Peñasco Independent School District will receive $1,522,000 and the Questa Independent School District will receive $1,216,000.
Roots and Wings Community School will receive $114,000, Taos Academy will receive $394,000, Taos Integrated School of the Arts will receive $427,000 and Taos International Charter School will receive $645,000.
According to Trujillo, the three charter schools will formulate and submit their own plans for spending the funds. Then, Taos Municipal Schools District will combine all four plans into one application and submit it to the NMPED for approval.
She said an award letter would be expected sometime in October, and the district would be free to begin spending the money.
The current TMS District draft budget calls for $4,071,000 in instructional funding, including $600,000 for a Reading Recovery Program, $400,000 for a Math Recovery Program and $390,000 for three instructional coaches over the next 2 years.
The draft budget also calls for $285,000 in Internet Technology, including $150,000 for IT needs, $26,000 for an IT secretary and $100,000 for Internet hot spots.
Facilities and maintenance accounts for $994,000 in the draft budget, which includes $450,000 for HVAC upgrades in Taos High School B-wing, $200,000 in supplies and materials and $120,000 in custodial salaries for one year.
And food services accounts for $207,000 in the draft budget, which includes $36,000 for two cafeteria cooks and $81,000 for their benefits for one year. (All figures have been rounded off).
“We’ve set aside for one full time social worker and their benefits, three instructional coaches and their benefits, and a family engagement coordinator and their benefits,” said Trujillo. “And after-school tutoring is needed – we’ve set aside funds for five long-term substitutes – one per school,” she said.
Trujillo said she had shared the draft budget with Taos Pueblo and other stakeholders, and that they were pleased with it.
“This is another difficult year for teachers and students, trying to figure out how to move forward, knowing that the pandemic is not really going away,” said Pascualito Maestas, Taos Municipal Schools District board member.
“The first round of CARES funding, the state swapped the State Educational Guarantee funding for CARES funding, so districts ended up coming out even.”
“Unlike the CARES funds, these funds are extra,” said Maestas.