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LCPS Board of Education Approves American Rescue Plan Act Grant Application

Oct 6, 2021

The Las Cruces Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved an American Rescue Plan Act grant application totaling over $64 million. 

Of that $64 million, 20% will be allocated to address learning loss—a New Mexico Public Education Department requirement.

 

LCPS Executive Director of Federal Programs Carla Ragan says the other 80% will be directed toward district needs like instructional resources and PPE. 

“The funding for this will be used to help schools to return safely to in-person instruction,” Ragan said. “Maximize in-person instructional time, sustain the safe operation of schools and address the academic, social, emotional and mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on New Mexico students.” 

More than $5.3 million will be set aside for instructional staff’s salaries and benefits, while over $4.8 million is being budgeted for non-instructional staff. The largest chunk of funding, a little over $13 million, is being directed toward instructional resources. Ragan says this includes money for extended learning time. 

“Where we look at that extended learning time, whether it's after school programs, or looking at extending time in the summer, whatever we decide to do as a district, there's funds in here to support that,” Ragan said. 

LCPS Board Member Teresa Tenorio advocated for COVID sick leave to be addressed.

“I feel like that's something that's kind of been overlooked, especially for employees at LCPS who are in their first year. We have a lot of new hires,” Tenorio said. “A lot of these employees, if they have their own small children or even students who can't be home alone, if one of them gets quarantined  then the employee gets quarantined.”

LCPS Chief Financial Officer Ed Ellison says the COVID sick leave policy within the district has been addressed, emphasizing it will remain in place through at least the end of the fiscal year for all LCPS employees. 

“The district has extended that COVID sick leave,” Ellison said. “And so we do have the COVID sick leave in place, which is the 80 hours. So last year when the federal government put that in place, we voluntarily extended that to the end of the year, and it’s also currently in place for this fiscal year.” 

In a public survey garnering 1,388 responses, top priorities highlighted by students, parents, staff, and other community members included providing additional technology, which more than $8.7 million is being budgeted for, and increasing and retaining teaching staff.

LCPS Board Member Pamela Cort says the district should seek to involve more students in the budgeting process and be transparent about how money is being utilized within schools. 

“I suggest maybe going through the student advisory classes in the middle schools and in the high schools,” Cort said. “Creating a lesson. I think it's really important for the students to know the money that's coming and where that money is going and how that money should be used.” 

Other ways the grant funding is slated to be used include $12.5 million for HVAC replacements and upgrades as well as $6.3 million for outdoor learning spaces and playground updates.