Hobart to donate unused CARES Act funds to Pulaski schools
By Kevin Boneske
HOBART – The Pulaski Community School District will be the beneficiary of a portion of the village’s unused Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.
The Hobart village board agreed Tuesday, Oct. 20, to donate up to $40,000 worth of monitors and stylus pens by purchasing those items for Pulaski schools with the village’s CARES Act allocation.
The board’s action comes two weeks after it passed a similar motion to donate up to the same amount to the West De Pere school district to purchase document cameras and Chromebooks.
Hobart was allocated approximately $156,000 by the state to reimburse expenses related to preventing the spread of COVID-19, but village officials said they don’t expect to use anywhere near that amount in CARES Act funds.
Village Clerk-Treasurer Erica Berger informed the board two weeks ago she conservatively estimated the village will have $80,000 of its allocation left over.
Because Hobart is split between two school districts, the board decided this month to split that anticipated remaining allocation between Pulaski and West De Pere.
Pulaski Superintendent Allison Space appeared at Tuesday’s board meeting to request CARES Act funding from the village.
Space said Pulaski schools will be learning virtually districtwide through at least Nov. 6 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she hopes students will be able to return Nov. 9.
“We don’t know what that bringing back is going to look like, but the state of the students being in the building right now are several small groups of kids that are getting extra (help),” she said. “We have our special ed students that are returning right now. We have some of our students in our CTE courses, so like our tech ed classes, which will be joining us soon… we’re just finding that some things just can’t be done virtually, right? I mean, you don’t want the kids to be welding at home without someone overseeing that.”
Space said she hopes Pulaski schools will be able to do a “slow roll back into school, so that when we do have the (COVID-19) numbers under control in the community, we can bring our students back safely.”
Because Pulaski is now learning virtually and students have been using iPads over the last several years, Space said the district is seeking to get each student a stylus pen to use for the iPads with their touch screens.
Space said the district is also seeking to have monitors for teachers to use in their classrooms at school or in a virtual environment at home.
“In the old days, just a couple of years ago, most classroom teachers had a big screen, they had a hard drive underneath it,” she said. “Now we’ve gone more portable with everything, so we take our laptops to meetings, and we just hook into a monitor somewhere else, and then our screen is bigger.”
Space said teachers in their classrooms at school have an easier time to hook up to something like a whiteboard, but they don’t have that piece of equipment when they are teaching at home, where they could use a monitor.
“We’re finding that we’re having to work with our teachers on getting monitors and make accommodations, so that they can teach better within our classrooms and at home,” she said.
Space said the request from Pulaski was in line with what Hobart did for West De Pere.
Village Administrator Aaron Kramer said Hobart will purchase the items and donate them to the Pulaski district through the CARES funding allocation, with the purchase handled by Berger.
“We have to spend the money before Nov. 6,” Berger said.
Kramer said he expects Pulaski and West De Pere will be able to get $40,000 worth of items donated to each of them with Hobart having enough of the CARES Act allocation remaining to reimburse its expenses.
The idea of municipalities donating unused funds came from an informational linkage meeting the Howard-Suamico School District hosted Aug. 17, when Sen. Rob Cowles suggested working with the state to make funds allocated to local governments available to the district.
In a letter he sent to local school district leaders, Cowles said he confirmed with the Wisconsin Department of Administration local governments may purchase reimbursable equipment or supplies using their grant allocations and donate the materials to local school districts, rather than return the unused amount to the state.
The village boards in Howard and Suamico previously approved motions to donate items purchased with unused CARES Act funds to the Howard-Suamico School District.