Galt high school district trustees signed off on a plan to spend COVID-19 relief funds making up for lost instruction time and ensuring the safety of in-person learning. Also at the Oct. 7 meeting, they heard an optimistic update on a new tutoring service and congratulated a local student who placed in a national math competition.

The Galt Joint Union High School District is scheduled to receive more than $3.1 million in its third installment of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds (ESSER III). The ESSER program is part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

This infusion of cash comes with the stipulation that at least 20% be spent to address the impact of lost instruction time. In a presentation, Director of Educational Services Sean Duncan said the district plan would allocate nearly twice that amount, about 39%, toward that goal.

Among other things, this $1.2 million share would increase case management support for students with disabilities, add a new counselor position and continue offering online tutoring through Paper Education.

The majority of the ESSER III money, $1.8 million or 58%, would be dedicated to keeping in-person-learning safe and preventing any interruptions. For example, a portion would be spent on updating HVAC systems, and installing water bottle fillers as alternatives to drinking fountains. To free up space at Liberty Ranch High School, the district offices would move to the Galt High School campus.

The remaining $108,000 would go toward an insurance reimbursement for staff and improved inventory management.

“That’s very exciting. There’s some great things you guys are doing,” Trustee Terry Parker said, noting she was “happy” to see the initiatives implemented. She particularly commended the investment in inventory management.

“Rare is the opportunity we get funding to do all the things we really want to do and start building up some of those things that we’ve needed for a very long time for school,” Trustee Melissa Neuburger said.

The board passed the plan 6-0, with the votes of student representatives Joseph Torrez and Larissa Reyes. Trustee Mark Beck was absent.

In the first month that the district has offered tutoring through Paper Education, 1,051 students have used the service, Duncan told the board.

“That is almost exactly one half of our student body,” Duncan continued. “They’ve participated in almost 1,500 sessions for tutoring, and they’ve submitted over 800 essays.”

The service saw more use on weekdays, than weekends, according to charts Duncan showed the board, and more use during class than after school. However, the educational services director noted that there was still “quite a bit of student use in the evening.” He cited the 4 p.m. hour; about 100 students accessed Paper during that hour over the past month.

Duncan attributed the in-class usage to teachers’ “fantastic job” of encouraging students to use Paper at school.

Commenting on the ESSER allocations, Torrez said he considers Paper a “good investment” for the district.

“Students finally have a resource where they can do their work at any time, no matter their extracurriculars or anything like that,” Torrez said. “They can still get the help that they need in a manageable amount of time and start a session, no matter the subject.”

Reyes suggested that the uptake among students is due to promotion efforts by teachers and student groups. She expressed interest in seeing how the tutoring improves grades in the district.

While Trustee Dennis Richardson acknowledged the utility of Paper for the students who have taken advantage of it, he wanted to see broader participation on weekends and in the evening. Otherwise, he anticipated only a small impact on grades.

Liberty Ranch Principal Joe Saramago took a moment early in the meeting to recognize Liberty Ranch student Kendall Sutton, who won first in the state in the Trig-Star math competition. Sutton went on to place third in the national competition.

Besides the academic victory, Sutton has found success at the 2021 Figure Skating National Championships, placing first in the figures category and second in the combined category.