San Juan School District will use Covid funds to provide 1% stipend for staff

by David Boyle
News Director
Members of the San Juan School board approved employee stipends, heard an update on the new Blanding Elementary School, and approved a conference for Native Youth Council members at their latest meeting.
At their October 4 meeting, the board approved a one percent of salary or $400 bonus for district employees as part of federal funds related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Superintendent Christine Fitzgerald said the district received funds known as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER) from Federal congressional acts.
Fitzgerald gave an overview of some of the district’s usage of the funds throughout the pandemic, including the purchase of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, the River Region LAN Access project which brought limited internet services to rural areas in southern San Juan County, contracted services for additional online learning, and support training for special education and paraprofessionals.
Fitzgerald said the district has seen measurable growth from various assessments as a result of implementing the programs since the pandemic started.
As the deadline to use the funds gets closer, the school district administration advocated for another stipend for district employees. Fitzgerald noted that teachers and staff are working hard to help get students re-acclimated to in-person learning.
“There’s also the significant challenge of students re-engaging with the school environment and being motivated to learn,” said Fitzgerald.
“...Teachers throughout the district are coming into the classroom, having to spend this extra time to say ‘How am I going to get my class engaged to learn?’ Once that happens they’re back in learning and we see that in the data.”
The proposal will see $412,000 given to local district staff as part of the November payroll.
Members of the board passed the proposal, with all district employees to receive a one percent stipend, with a minimum of a $400 bonus for each employee.
At the meeting, members of the school board also received a brief update on the plans to build a new Blanding Elementary School.
District Business Administrator Tyrel Pemberton said the district is working with contractors to get schematic designs in time for November applications to the state Rural Schools Capital Fund. The state legislative-funded program helps provide dollars for rural districts to build schools.
Pemberton said the district is scheduling meetings for stakeholders, including a general public information meeting.
Members of the San Juan School Board also approved a trip for students on the Native Youth Council to attend the Native Indian Education Association Conference in October.
District Heritage Language Director Brenda Whitehorse shared the agenda for the conference in Albuquerque, NM starting with travel on October 19 and concluding on October 21. Members of the board approved the student travel to the conference.
The school board also received annual training regarding spending School Trust Land funds. The district will receive more than $600,000 in funds that are split between schools based on enrollment. 
Members of the board also recognized district employees with San Juan Sweet Job awards.
They include District Building and Grounds Administrative Assistant Roxanne Eldredge and Blanding Elementary Special Education Teacher Rachel Jacobsen.

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