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Have to spend $101M in three years? FWCS figuring out how

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) -- Leaders at Fort Wayne Community Schools are deciding how to spend an extra $100 million within three years.

"There's some discretion and there are some strings," said FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman.

$101 million is a lot of money, especially when it needs to be spent within three years.

The issue for FWCS leaders is how to do it, knowing the windfall is a one-time deal.

The money is coming from the state budget, after Indiana got billions from the federal government in coronavirus relief.

"For students who we haven't seen for a year, how are we going to help those students get caught back up?" a district spokeswoman asked.

"20% has to be spent to address learning gaps," she said.

For instance, for the first time, the district will offer summer school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, as well as opening school libraries for a summer reading program.

"This year we have more summer programs than we have probably ever had. We'll have more students involved, more teachers who will be working throughout the summer," she said.

Individual schools will contact parents of about 3,000 elementary and middle schoolers who've struggled with virtual learning to strongly encourage them to enroll their students in free summer school programs.

"For students who we haven't seen for a year, how are we going to help those students get caught back up? And that is going to be challenging. Some of the ways you do that is with people. And people are expensive," she said.

Also this summer, classes will be offered to high schoolers at all five high schools, instead of one, to help them make up missing credits.

Another portion of the extra funding could be spent on facility improvements beyond what voters already approved in recent referendums, like expensive specialty air purifiers for school buildings.

"Those are things, though, that in a pandemic you go well it might be nice if we had those. It might make people feel better about where we're at. So those are things that we're looking at. Because again, that money could be spent and then it doesn't need to be spent again," Stockman said.

She says increasing salaries or hiring more staff could be problematic because the district doesn't want to cut pay or positions once the money runs out in three years.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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