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Anne Arundel Board of Education reviews funding priorities for coronavirus pandemic response

Anne Arundel County public schools will apply for federal funding to help with recovery efforts in response to the pandemic and to aid school reopening plans in the fall.

During an evening meeting, Anne Arundel Superintendent George Arlotto reviewed topic areas the school system will include in a grant application to the state education agency to access federal relief aid as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

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Arlotto’s update included four areas — a learning management system for future online learning, technology for devices and internet connectivity, professional development for staff and school building additions and protective gear for when schools are allowed to reopen.

“As we are planning a variety of possibilities in opening our buildings, we know that if we are able to get into our buildings we will most likely reduce class sizes, have additional hand washing stations and other updates and changes to buildings to make them as safe and healthy environments as possible for our students and staff,” Arlotto said on Wednesday night.

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The school system has also created a committee to help develop these plans, he said.

The total funding of about $11 million will cover K-12 education for all of the county, including private, parochial, charter and contract schools, said school spokesman Bob Mosier in an email.

Currently, there is no established timeline or deadline for the grant application.

Arlotto’s update aligned with Vice President Melissa Ellis’ budget committee overview of issues the board should consider when it comes to funding. Ellis discussed replacing the Chromebooks loaned out to students, purchasing an online learning management system, modifying buildings and training teachers, she said in an email on Thursday.

Ellis also discussed reimbursements for the food and nutrition services that have provided meals to children during the pandemic.

In particular, the costs of serving the third meal at several sites have become costly, an experience shared by other districts, Arlotto said. By mid-May, county public schools had reached a one million meals milestone.

The school system hopes to access state funds and federal waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he said.

Once county schools receive funding, the school board would need to approve any contracts funded by the money and a supplemental restricted appropriation budget request could be needed, Ellis said in an email.

The school system is also working on a summer recovery plan that could extend online learning. As of Wednesday, the school system has not engaged 1,165 students in the online learning. Out of those students, over 570 students are at the elementary school level, Arlotto said.

The summer recovery plan could incorporate additional learning opportunities for “our most needy students and students at the elementary level,” he said.

“We hope to invite them into continued virtual learning in very specific areas, probably reading and math only, to help close some of those learning gaps,” Arlotto said.

Students will also go through needs assessments in the fall for teachers to identify possible learning losses.

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“We want to ensure that the COVID-19 school closings do not exacerbate the opportunity and academic gaps of our students,” Arlotto said.

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