KINGWOOD — Preston County Schools was awarded $235,967 from the Emergency Connectivity Fund to support remote learning.
Assistant Superintendent Bradley Martin announced the funding award at the Preston County Board of Education’s regular meeting on Monday.
The ECF is a $7.17 billion program funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to help schools and libraries support remote learning, Martin told the board. The funds are for equipment and services for students and teachers such as laptops, tablets or broadband access.
Martin said he couldn’t just request a hotspot for every student in Preston County and equipment bought through a different federal funding program couldn’t be reimbursed through the ECF.
The county is asking for reimbursement for about 60% of the Dell laptops purchased and issued to eighth- and ninth-grade students for just under $102,000, Martin said. He believes the vast majority of that will be recouped.
“What I have to do, what I have to look at, can I find 364 kids that I issued a Dell laptop this year to that have a defined need,” Martin said.
While the money has been awarded, there is a documentation component and the funds can be audited for up to 10 years, so Martin said he wanted to make sure everything was done properly.
The county also requested 500 hotspots, 250 from AT&T and 250 from Sprint/T-Mobile, Martin said. The hotspots are already approved through state contracts and cost about $20 a month for service.
“Now the good thing about that is we do not have to directly pay for their services,” Martin said. The vendors are responsible for billing and will get their money from the federal government.
“So in a nutshell guys, we can claim upwards to approximately $236,000 give or take is what we’re ultimately eligible for here,” Martin said.
Superintendent Stephen Wotring said the district’s COVID numbers are tending in the right direction. This is the last week the county will have a guaranteed mask mandate and starting Nov. 1, mask usage will be determined by the color of the COVID map.
“So, on Friday, I’ll put out information for the following week,” Wotring said. “My goal is as we move forward from now on every Friday, I will provide an update as to where we are. And if the masks become optional at any time at this point.”
The district is working to coffee Modern vaccine booster shots to its staff on Nov. 19, Wotring said. It will require a three hour early dismissal so all staff can have the opportunity to go. The shots will be optional.