A government that CARES

Federal grant money has helped Perry Township during the pandemic

The CARES Act money has been used to provide new equipment for Perry Township schools.

The CARES Act money has been used to provide new equipment for Perry Township schools.

Because of the possible financial setback that schools across the country could go through due to COVID-19, the federal government passed the $3.1 million Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act March 27, 2020. The grants purpose is to help with the expenses that would come with continuing school during a pandemic. 

The grant has helped fund the mass purchase of chromebooks for students and teachers, personal protective equipment for all those who will be in the school, cleaning supplies equipment, transportation, providing internet access to students and much more. All of these have been bought for and help SHS run day-to-day operations.

Executive Director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials Dennis Costerison says that the grant is extremely helpful and necessary simply because no one could have predicted this could happen. 

“It wasn’t exactly in any schools budget for a pandemic,” Costerison said. 

Since the CARES Act was passed on  a second grant was passed on Dec. 27 of the same year. Commonly known as CARES Act 2.0, it gave Perry Township almost four times the amount of the first grant at around $11.3 million, on top of the money given from the first one. Due to the uncertain length of time that schools will require funds from the grant, the second CARES Act doesn’t have to be completely spent until September of 2023 while the first had to be spent by Dec. 31, 2020.

With that money, according to Matthew Willey, Chief Technology Officer for Perry Township, the township has spent about $1.5 million on technology. 

That money has been spent on almost 5,000 Chromebooks for students and teachers, software accounts, such as Edpuzzle, and training in technology for teachers and Google management licenses, which help with teaching.

At the elementary level, the CARES Act grant has not only impacted students but teachers as well. 

Adrianne Greene, a fourth grade teacher at Mary Bryan Elementary School, had her Chromebook replaced before the school year started.

“Mine that I have now is way better than the one I had before,” Greene said. “I mean, it was worse than the kids’ ones.” 

As for her students, many of them already had up-to-date Chromebooks, but the ones who didn’t were given new ones before the switch to virtual learning after Thanksgiving break. The school also repaired any student’s chromebook that needed it.

According to Greene, she wasn’t completely aware of what was funding the new update in technology, since she had only heard of the CARES Act a few times and didn’t fully know what it was supposed to help fund. 

“Let’s be honest. It’s not really high on a classroom teacher’s priority list to know where the money’s coming from,” Greene said. “We just want the stuff.” 

The impact of the grant at the high school level has also been substantial.

Science teacher Amanda Schnepp says the money has been used for personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, like the Indy masks, and for new supplies, like webcams.

Webcams were needed because of screen casting and Google Meets, since school has also been taught virtually. 

“Without those things, we wouldn’t be able to serve students as well,” Schnepp said.

Exactly what the rest of the CARES Act money will be spent on is undecided, but there is still a general idea. Associate Superintendent Chris Sampson says that the rest of the money may be used to replace devices instead of buying additional ones.

There are five different categories that the money can be used on: resources for students, technology preparedness, cleanliness, social emotional learning and career technical support.

“Suffice it to say, that regardless of whether the CARES Act runs out, we’ll still find a way to provide the resources that we need to continue the education of our kids,” Sampson said.