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Watch now: Bloomington District 87 board hears about $17 million in grants

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District 87 Chief Financial and Facilities Officer Michael Cornale explains the districts uses of ESSER II and ESSER III grants.

BLOOMINGTON — Federal, state and local grants are a big part of Bloomington District 87's budget every year, and fiscal year 2022 is looking no different. The district expects to have around $17 million in grant funds this year, the school board learned Wednesday night. 

"The burden that's taken off the taxpayers is huge," said district Chief Financial and Facilities Officer Michael Cornale. 

Audience at District 87 Oct. 13 meeting

Members of the public, seven of whom spoke against the mask mandate, watch a presentation given by District 87 administrators Michael Cornale and Diane Wolf on grants received by district at the school board's Oct. 13 meeting. 

Three of the federal grants come from the rounds of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) program. The first round was part of the CARES Act, with congressional approval for the other rounds coming in December 2020 and March 2021. 

The largest grant by far is the federal ESSER III grant, which is meant to provide funding for programs and changes to address pandemic-related learning loss. District 87 has been allocated $13.8 million from this grant, which can be spent through September 2024. 

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The district also still has $4.3 million from the ESSER II grant, out of $10.3 million total. The remaining funds must be used by September 2023. The district has spent all of the funds it received from ESSER I. 

Diane Wolf, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, walked the board through some of the other grants. 

There are two other grants over $1 million: Title I and IDEA Flow Through. Title I is allocated on the number of students from low-income families. In District 87, funding goes to every school but Sarah Raymond School of Early Education. In most schools, the funds can go to every student, but at Oakland and Washington elementary schools, the funds have to be targeted to impact low-income students, Wolf said. 

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IDEA Flow Through is also a federal program, used to supplement paraprofessional salaries and for professional development and technology specific to students with special needs. 

Along with federal and state government programs, the district also receives grants from local sources. That includes a $100,000 annual contribution from State Farm Insurance that is used to fund the programs for incoming sixth- and ninth-graders as they transition to junior high and high school, respectively.

The McLean County Board of Health provides funding through the Center for Human Services for in-school counselors. Project Oz provides funding for the Restorative Practices Specialists program, which has now been expanded to Bloomington Junior High School and the elementary schools, Wolf said.

The board heard from seven community members who spoke during the public comment section against the district's mask mandate, which is required by the state. Several speakers referenced the last board meeting, in which the board did not allow people who had not signed up to speak to make public comments. 

Two of the speakers, Andrew and Becky Swan, had also spoken at the Sept. 22 meeting. Becky Swan said during her comment that they had not been allowed in until they had put on masks, but that once they had entered the building, the mandate was not being enforced. No one who spoke wore a mask while speaking, though some did wear them while sitting in the audience. 

After the public comments, the board adjourned to closed session to discuss compensation for a group of employees.

During his report, Superintendent Barry Reilly said he might miss the next meeting due to a scheduled surgery. He said he wanted to avoid any potential speculation about why he was absent, if he is. 

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Contact Connor Wood at (309)820-3240. Follow Connor on Twitter: @connorkwood

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