District hears update on CARES grant funds

    St. James School District Safety Director Josh Cahill outlined where the district stands on Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding and several pending requests for funding from the county on August 20. Cahill spoke to the St. James Board of Education, discussing how district has received some CARES Act funding from the state and county levels, with more expected soon to help with coronavirus relief efforts.

    “So, this was a federal act that was passed and it was a huge pot of money. The federal government split this money and sent it out everywhere because they didn’t have the manpower to deal with it,” Cahill explained. “So, it went to the states and the states did several things.”
    He said there was a 75 percent payment upfront dispersed through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) that came to districts, which resulted in $519,282 being given to the district, with the other 25 percent, or $173,094, coming later.
    This money was earmarked to help school districts with their relief efforts to sanitize schools, purchase personal protective equipment, disinfectants, and other items relating to COVID-19 safety guidelines that were not in the annual budget.
    “We also have a pot of money that came down that has been administered by MRPC (Meramec Regional Planning Commission). So, they allowed for people to apply for Phelps County CARES money,” Cahill explained. “And, they made grants available. You would apply for a grant. We were one of the first six entrants in applying for this grant and our first application was for $44,000 and some change.”
    The county approved the first request, giving St. James School District $44,011.91, which was awarded earlier this month. This provided the district with 100 percent reimbursement of the expenses submitted, as well as $3,881.37 in reimbursement from unemployment.
    “The first application, I’m happy to tell you, was vetted and approved. The county had to vet the money, waiting on additional guidance. I met with the commission a couple of weeks ago and encouraged them to start the vetting process and I’m happy to report we have received our first check from our first application,” Cahill said.
    “They said you can apply as many times as you want, so we are not going to go away empty handed. We applied twice more and we may apply again later on, depending on how that looks,” he told the board.
    The district has two more applications pending, one for $30,469.54 and another for $106,475.92. He told the board they looked “favorable” and he hoped to learn more as the commission vets more applications soon. Of the larger grant application, Cahill said $60,000 was to be used for temperature scanning equipment for use at the entrances of campus buildings to scan students as they enter.
    “So, what that is going to allow us to do is not have a handheld scanner and bottleneck kids as they come through the door. We are going to try to make school as normal as possible,” he said. “Kids will come in, these will take temperatures, (and) it will automatically do a green box, red box. Red box means (the temperature) is over 100.4. We have a protocol to send them to the nurse,” he explained.
    Once at the nurse’s office, the nurse will have a more accurate scanner to determine if the reading was correct or false before isolation protocols are put into place.
    Cahill said he is waiting on further news from the county commission, but will be attending another meeting to encourage more funding should a decision not be made quickly on the next round of county applications.