Here’s how Shawnee Mission plans to use nearly $12 million in new COVID-19 relief funding

Shawnee Mission students in class with masks

Shawnee Mission plans to use $11.8 million in new COVID-19 relief funds to reduce class sizes, retain employees and hire seven elementary social workers. The entire award, $23.7 million, must be allocated and used by September 2023. Above, Shawnee Mission elementary students in class. File photo.

Shawnee Mission plans to spend a large portion of nearly $12 million in new COVID-19 relief funding on learning recovery.

Why it matters: This is the third round of federal COVID-19 relief funding, and the district is being awarded $23.7 million. This amount must be obligated, or used, by September 2024.

Shawnee Mission needs to submit an application for the first half — which will be used only for the 2022-23 school year — by next month.

Background: The $23.7 million can be used in the same ways as prior federal COVID-19 relief funds, such as preparing for or responding to the pandemic. Additionally, the funds can be used to upgrade ventilation systems — as the district has in the past — and address “learning loss,” according to the district’s website.

The new funding also features a federal requirement that 20% of the $23.7 million to be allocated to learning recovery. This can look like summer learning, after school programming or other “evidence-based interventions” that respond to students’ “academic, social and emotional needs,” according to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

More than 2,000 Shawnee Mission community members, including parents, students and staff, completed a Thought Exchange survey in December to share how the district should use uncommitted relief funding. The top responses asked the district to reduce class sizes, increase teacher and staff pay, and support mental health.

The details: Shawnee Mission’s plan details ways the first half of the award, or $11.8 million, will be used.

Chief Communications Officer David Smith told the Post via email that “there are funds in each of the first 10 line items that will impact learning loss.” Line items can be found in board documents here.

This includes half a million for seven elementary school social workers, $1.7 million to further reduce elementary class sizes and $2.4 million for 61 substitutes for the 2022-23 school year.

Additionally, is using $2 million for retention payment to eligible employee and $796,000 for indoor air quality. Shawnee Mission previously used $1 million of COVID-19 relief funding to upgrade air ventilation systems in schools.

The second half of the $23.7 million will be used for the 2023-24 school year. District officials will present a new plan for that school year and its funding at a later time.

Key quote: “While only 20% had to go to learning recovery, a majority of ours — the largest majority of ours — is dedicated to learning recovery,” Superintendent Michelle Hubbard said to the school board on Monday.