Beverly Anders, Monroe County School District’s executive director of finance, announced in the most recent school board meeting that $13 million in federal funds will soon hit their coffers, from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. The district will use the money as ARP intended for schools: to mitigate learning loss from the pandemic. Anders has until Dec. 17 to submit a proposal with the specific details of how the funds will be spent.

Anders told Keys Weekly that she knew back in March that federal money was coming when President Joe Biden signed ARP into law. But time passed by, and the state did not apply for the funds.

“The state of Florida was the last state in the whole nation to apply for these funds,” she pointed out. 

But the state finally applied, and it received its slice of ARP’s pie.

Florida’s cut for the schools?

$6.4 billion.

Anders said the amount each county got depended upon enrollment in the schools. “Dade County got a billion dollars. That gives some perspective,” she said.

Once Anders learned that Monroe County was getting the $13 million, she had to submit a formal proposal that listed how its money would be used. But because Florida had applied for ARP funds very late, the state gave Anders a tight deadline for the proposal.

“Luckily, they extended that to Dec. 17,” she said. “But at first they gave us two weeks.”

The items on her proposal all have a unified purpose: “We are going to be diligent and responsible for how we use this money and provide resources to students for social, emotional and educational purposes to overcome what they went through during the pandemic,” Anders said.

Proposed allocations include: $8 million toward 66 newly created positions, such as social workers, reading interventionists, nurse techs and guidance techs; $1.5 million toward charter schools; $2 million for furniture to provide educational spaces and media centers for collaborative learning and social distancing; $200,000 for technology such as additional Chromebooks and hotspots to allow kids to work remotely.

The next step for the proposal after it is submitted? Public input from the community about how the money will be spent. The district is allowed to make changes to the proposal depending upon input. To get this feedback from the community, Superintendent Theresa Axford will hold town hall meetings throughout winter and spring.

“The town hall meeting schedule is coming out before we leave for winter break,” said Amber Archer Acevedo, coordinator of community relations for the school district.

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Charlotte Twine fled her New York City corporate publishing life and happily moved to the Keys six years ago. She has written for Travel + Leisure, Allure, and Offshore magazines;; and the Florida Keys Free Press. She loves her two elderly Pomeranians, writing stories that uplift and inspire, making children laugh, the color pink, tattoos, Johnny Cash, and her husband. Though not necessarily in that order.