In a press release dated Thursday, Dec. 19, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced new federal assistance for the Texas Education Agency, to aid in recovery efforts from flooding in the Rio Grande Valley, southeast Texas and the greater Houston area.
The $25,445,162 in grant funds, under the Department’s Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations program, are awarded to state education agencies to provide assistance in restarting school operations after a natural disaster. Possible use of funds may include restoration of the learning environment, including minor repairs to classrooms, replacement of instructional materials, and tutoring and instructional programs for students to make up for lost instructional time.
The Journal-Spectator reached out to three independent school districts – Boling, East Bernard, and Wharton.
Boling ISD Superintendent Wade Stidevent said the Department of Grant Compliance and Administration of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently informed school districts that the TEA is preparing to submit a federal grant application for the 2018 Supplemental Application for Immediate Aid To Restart School Operations (RESTART) grant program to aid students and schools affected by Hurricane Harvey, under the following federal disaster declaration (see below):
Texas Hurricane Harvey (DR-4332) Incident period: Aug. 23 to Sept. 15, 2017. Major disaster declaration declared on Aug. 25, 2017 and there were 41 designated counties, including Wharton, Matagorda, Fort Bend, Colorado, Brazoria, among others.
“Accordingly, TEA requested specific data from each district to be submitted for inclusion in the state’s application. Boling ISD was informed the application must be submitted to the United States Department of Education (USDE) on a very tight timeline, so the data collection process to complete the state application required rapid responses from districts in the designated counties that were affected by Hurricane Harvey,” Stidevent said. “Boling ISD submitted our application on December 10, 2019 confirming our interest in pursuing the benefits of this grant.”
He said other information is limited at this time. He said if funds are ultimately granted, a needs assessment process will be completed before allocation.
Students with the Wharton Independent School District were also affected by flooding caused by Harvey. It made things worse when Wharton ISD buildings suffered from flooding, too.
Superintendent Tina Herrington said Wharton ISD will look into this program once information is passed down through the proper channels.
DeVos said she will work with Gov. Greg Abbott.
“We know that full recovery from natural disasters, like the flooding experienced in Texas, can be a long and difficult process for everyone involved,” said DeVos. “Through our various grant programs, we will continue to come alongside state and local leaders like Governor Abbott and Commissioner Morath to assist in their efforts to rebuild, recover and allow the learning process to continue for students and educators who may still be dealing with the trauma of these difficult events.”
Added Abbott: “Texas continues to emerge stronger than ever as we rebuild from natural disasters that have affected our state over the last few years. Our recovery efforts involve all aspects of our communities – including schools impacted by storms. We are committed to ensuring that every Texas child receives a quality education, and this $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will provide affected communities and their classrooms with the resources they need to be successful.
Morath said the communities that will receive assistance and have been affected “have quite literally weathered the storm, showing incredible resolve while ensuring that students continue to receive an excellent education, regardless of the circumstances.”
He adds: “These grant funds further assist those efforts and will prove instrumental in helping schools and communities rebuild.”
Grant amounts under the Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations program are decided based on the impact data and estimated or actual recovery costs provided by applicants, as well as the number of applicants.