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Bemidji School Board OKs federal stimulus dollars

The Bemidji School District approved a plan Monday, July 20, outlining the use of federal stimulus money.

The government will issue $687,191 to Title 1 schools in the Bemidji School District. To qualify for Title 1, a school has to have a higher free-and-reduced lunch percentage than the overall district.

Bemidji School District has a 48.33 percent free and reduced percentage. Four elementary schools qualify as Title 1 schools - Lincoln, Solway, J.W. Smith and Central.

Title 1 stimulus money serves the youngest children first. Schools receiving stimulus money are required by law to improve student achievement and maintain these efforts after the one-time money is gone.

"We have to follow certain rules," said Kathy Palm, director of curriculum and administrative services. "The government says we have to set aside stimulus money for parent involvement and we have to serve homeless students."

According to Palm, the tough economy has played a role in an increase in the number of families who qualify for the free and reduced program.

"The Bemidji Area School District exceeded more than 200 homeless kids last year," said Palm.

The Title 1 stimulus money will pay for half the salary of two liaisons who will work with the homeless students and their families.

Other stimulus dollars must go towards services such as purchasing school supplies for children and money for staff development.

As part of the federal stimulus requirements, the school district will have to show what programs can be sustained with the money. This can be tricky, as some school programs which started on stimulus dollars can't sustain themselves once the money has run out.

The Bemidji School District hopes to deflect this problem by directing most of the Title 1 dollars towards teacher training. The trained teachers and staff will then be expected to continue providing instruction on the program.

"Stimulus money is big money - everyone wants to grab it," said school board member John Pagleasa at Monday's board meeting. "As encouraging as it is that we're leaving something behind, if we're displacing other people to fulfill new commitments, I just want to make sure we're not getting into a jam."

Stimulus plans

The following is a list of how the Bemidji School Board plans to use the Title 1, Part A federal stimulus allocation of $687,191 in 2009-10:

- $246,487 to Reading Recovery: a trained Reading Recovery teacher Thief River Falls Schools will train one teacher from each of the six elementary schools every Friday afternoon and one week in August.

- $92,400 to Leveled Literacy Intervention: One teacher from six elementary schools and the non-public Title 1 teacher will be trained in Brainerd.

- $144,142 to preschools; 1.0 FTE early childhood teacher will be hired for one year at Central Elementary school and .50 FTE early childhood teacher will be hired for one year at Solway Elementary School.

- $57,975 to Title 1 school distribution: One-time, left-over stimulus money will be evenly distributed to Central, J.W. Smith, Lincoln, Solway elementary schools and the non-public Title 1 schools.

- $50,000 to district technology: Two 20-laptop computer carts and additional computer for the District Tech Training Center will be purchased to enhance training, projects and testing.

- $25,000 to grad remediation: Curriculum materials will be purchased to prepare students for high school graduation tests.

- $20,770 to fund after-school/summer programs.

- $19,041 to cover indirect costs at 2.8 percent at the district level.

- $14,504 to administrative costs.

- $10,000 to be set aside for the homeless.

- $6,872 to be set aside for parent involvement.

First City School

First City School at the Northwestern Minnesota Juvenile Center in Bemidji will receive $105,766 in federal stimulus money. The school intends to use the money toward improving student achievement through teacher training, technology, and curriculum purchases.

The following is a list of how the Bemidji School Board of Education plans to use the Title 1, Part A federal stimulus allocation of $105,766 in 2009-10:

- $21,936 for professional development for teachers and paraprofessionals.

- $18,000 for curriculum purchases.

- $63,000 for equipment and technology including SMART Boards.

- $2,830 in direct costs at 2.8 percent.