Rose Tree Media School District superintendent Eleanor Dimarino-Linnen says her district has had trouble navigating the pandemic.
“It has certainly been a challenging year,” Dimarino-Linnen said.
But just over two weeks ago, the district’s efforts got a major boost in the form of a $493k grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education as a form of pandemic relief. The grant is part of a larger $2.2 billion allocation program through the CARES Act, which provides federal assistance to local and state governments during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“All schools have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I commend school communities for rising to the challenge to combat the toll it has taken,” said Gov. Tom Wolf in a statement announcing the program. “This extra funding is critical to help schools meet the unique needs of educating students at this time while keeping school buildings safe when students return to the classroom.”
The main purpose of the grant, Dimarino-Linnen said, is to ensure schools within the district are fully able to keep up with the ever-increasing costs of maintaining both school buildings and curriculums.
“We are looking at funding programs and services to address the return of students to full in-person learning, including resources for academic, social, and emotional recovery,” Dimarino-Linnen said in an email.
She wrote that the grants will “primarily be used for procuring various forms of PPE, ventilation and air quality needs, cleaning and sanitizing needs, and improving access to technology for delivery of instruction.”
In addition, the grant will also go towards other services that will be needed for in-person learning. That includes math and reading resources as well as activities geared towards social and emotional education to help, as Dimarino-Linnen put it, “re-create a sense of community in our classrooms and schools.”
While much of the funding will be used immediately, the funds can be used through September of 2023.
All schools in Rose Tree Media have implemented a hybrid learning environment for the 2020-21 academic year. In spite of the inconveniences it has brought thus far, Dimarino-Linnen praised families in the district for adhering to health and safety protocols.
“Our parents have been supportive in making sure to complete the health screening and to keep children home who are sick,” Dimarino-Linnen said in an email. “They are also working hard to support their children when learning from home.”
“The community has been great to work with,” assistant superintendent Bill Dougherty said in an email. “Although the situation is far from ideal and so challenging, the community has responded by supporting each other.”
Dougherty also said the district is using this period as a way to take inventory on their processes as they try to navigate the pandemic.
“As an administrator, we are looking to use this time to plan for the future,” he said. “We are asking ourselves what we have learned about schooling from this experience. What should we stop doing when we return? What should we keep doing? And what should we create?”
Still, both Dougherty and Dimarino-Linnen expressed an eagerness to return to something that resembles pre-pandemic norms sometime in the near future.
“Everyone is quite eager for a return to normalcy, especially as spring approaches and more of our community is able to get vaccinated,” Dimarino-Linnen said.