West Side Leadership Academy Boys Basketball 2021 Regional Champions

Improving academics is top priority for spending Gary school district's federal stimulus funds

Contributed By:The 411 News

Dollars will be applied immediately through STEM Summer Camp and other initiatives

A $71 million dollar infusion of federal funds since 2020 and a projected 60% graduation rate for 2021 -- both pandemic driven -- are shaping the path forward for the Gary Community School Corporation.

The graduation rate is being monitored "almost daily, hourly," GCSC Manager Paige McNulty said at the May 13th meeting with the Distressed Unit Appeal Board, the corporation's state operator. McNulty said the graduation rate could grow to 70 percent if more senior class students make up missing credits during summer school.

The district won't know actual graduation numbers until the Fall, McNulty said.

West Side Leadership Academy, the district's only high school, had 265 seniors for the 2020-21 school year, according to the Indiana Dept. of Education's October count.

Two goals guide GCSC’s process for developing its strategy for using the federal funds: Continue improving academics and continue building a sustainable district. Based on these priorities, the GCSC administration developed five categories for the spending plan: instruction, technology, facilities, equipment, and personnel.

GCSC will immediately put these dollars to work to support student learning. This summer, all GCSC students are invited to participate in one of the 2-sessions of STEM Summer Camps.

Starting June 7, students will be able to learn robotics, coding, and core subjects from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. from Monday through Friday. Students who will be entering grades K-12 can participate, and breakfast, lunch, and transportation will all be provided.

Manager McNulty said the district will expand study tables to other student groups, a learning style that helped West Side's boys basketball team maintain honor roll status.

“This federal support builds on the progress we’ve made on finances and the improvements we’re making with facilities and allows us to really double-down on academics,” said Manager McNulty. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for our students and staff, and we’re going to seize it.”

Eric Parish, from MGT Consulting, DUAB's operating partner, said the $71 million is the result of 3 streams of Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) federal funding. The district received $4 million from the first coronavirus stimulus bill -- the CARES Act of March 2020.

The second round of ESSER funding to the district, $21 million, came in the coronavirus stimulus bill of December 2020. The third round of ESSER in the American Rescue Plan of 2021 delivered $46.8 million to the district.

In future DUAB meetings, the school district expects to give more detailed spending plans with programs and initiatives, timelines for expenditures, metrics to measure success and the desired outcomes.

Although the district expects all students to return to in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year, there will be an option for virtual learning.

Story Posted:05/17/2021

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