All of the details are yet to be known, but the Grady County Board of Education learned Tuesday night that the system has been awarded $6 million in federal funding in the form of pandemic relief.
Last spring, the school system received $1.5 million in federal funds that officials have yet to spend completely, according to Grady County School Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard.
The superintendent says the system has a deadline of 2022 to spend the federal dollars and up until now the system had not used any of the money to pay for the salaries of system employees. Dr. Gilliard said Tuesday night that finance officer Dan Broome will be moving forward to draw down those funds and to spend it.
Board member Gerald Goosby asked if some of the new $6 million allocation could be used for technology investments to provide high speed internet to the approximately 25 percent of the system’s enrollment who do not have access to broadband.
Dr. Gilliard said that based on what he has read, the restrictions are very limited and technology investments certainly would be approved expenditures.
In addition to trying to serve students who lack high speed internet in their homes, Dr. Gilliard said investments must be made to boost the wi-fi capabilities within the individual schools. The superintendent said at Cairo High School, for example, when the bulk of the school is accessing Wi-Fi at the same time there is not sufficient service for all to gain access, resulting in the use of cell phone data, which comes at an expense to parents and guardians.
“We will be beefing up our Wi-Fi capabilities this summer,” Dr. Gilliard said.
Board member John White suggested perhaps the system could partner with Grady Electric Membership Corporation to expand access to high speed internet to underserved areas of the community.
“We haven’t discussed with administrators how to best spend this money. We are just learning about this money this week,” the superintendent said.
Newly elected board chairman Derrick Majors asked if some of the $6 million in federal funds could be used to upgrade the system’s method of sanitizing school facilities or potentially employing additional manpower to help sanitize and clean school facilities.
Dr. Gilliard said the preliminary indications are such expenditures could be paid for using the federal relief dollars.
The superintendent said in brainstorming with central office personnel some other considerations would be replacing laptops that were purchased in 2017 and 2018 as well as using some of the money for new playground equipment at local schools, which is a big ticket item the system has not budgeted for in recent years.
In other business Tuesday night, the school board:
‰Elected Derrick Majors as chairman and John White as vice chairman for 2021.
‰Voted to maintain its monthly meeting schedule of the second Tuesday of each month beginning at 6 p.m.
‰Ratified the purchase of a commercial property in northeast Cairo, soon to be home of the Grady Educational Center.
‰Authorized the execution of a memorandum of understanding between the system and the University of Georgia Research Foundation for the Georgia College Advising Corps program. The program places recent college graduates as college advisors in high schools statewide, including Cairo High School. An adviser is currently working in the C.H.S. guidance department and meeting with seniors as well as other students in grades 9-12. Dr. Gilliard recommended continuing the partnership, which will cost the system $26,670 for the 2021-2022 school term.
‰Approved a change order on the new Cairo High School N.J.R.O.T.C. building that resulted in a credit of $1,043.66. Approval of the change order clears the way for school system finance officer Dan Broome to close out the project. The revised contract price for construction, not including architectural fees, stands at $1,830,726.34.
‰Approved payment of the accounts payable, this month’s total being $1,120,910.13.
‰Authorized execution of a resolution to request a one year’s extension for the system’s five year facility plan. Georgia Department of Education officials have already signed off on approving the extension.
‰Authorized the execution of a new lease for office space in the Colonial Building, owned by the Chason family. Dr. Gilliard said the current agreement is up for renewal and the system continues to need the rented space and will for some time.