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Schools await fed money
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The Effingham County School System is expected to receive nearly $2.4 million in additional federal funding to be split over the current year and the upcoming fiscal year.

The first portion of the funds will be distributed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the second portion of the funds are scheduled to be released to the system in the fall.

The county will receive $770,000 in additional Title I funding, and $1,628,000 in Individuals with Disabilities Act funding.

Superintendent Randy Shearouse said there are certain requirements for the funds to be used.

“We have certain schools that are Title I schools, so the Title I dollars would need to be spent at those schools,” he said.

Currently there are five Title I schools: Springfield Elementary, Sand Hill Elementary, Guyton Elementary, Effingham County Middle and Rincon Elementary.

Rincon is currently targeted Title I, which means the Title I funds can only be used to help students on free and reduced lunch. Rincon is applying to be a total Title I school so the funds can be used to for the entire student population.

Shearouse said the IDEA funding is designed to be used for students with special needs throughout the county.

“That’s an area that’s been under funded for a long time, and is great that we’re receiving these extra dollars to help catch up with what we’ve been having to fund locally,” he said. “We believe that this current school year we spent $200,000 in local dollars above what we receive from the local government.”

Shearouse said a portion of the funds will come to the system for the 2009 budget year, and the system will receive the remaining funds in the 2010 budget year.

“It’s definitely going to help the system,” he said of the funding in relation to the budget process. “But you have to be careful, because you can’t supplant what you already do. You can supplement your programs, but you can’t supplant.

“For example, if you’re going to add a new program that you would normally pay for out of general education funds, you can’t pay for that out of Title I funds.”

He said if there was a program that would be cut, the funds can be used to help keep the program alive.

“The money will definitely come into good use,” Shearouse said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions out there right now about the budget, and we can’t move forward until we know what all these numbers are together, and then the board will have to make decisions on what we feel like the school system can afford.”

He said the system can’t start new programs with the additional funding from the federal government because of the questions of what would happen to the programs when the funds are no longer available in two years.

“We’re really going to be looking to use these funds in crucial areas where they will best help the students, and hopefully help the school system as a whole make sure we make our achievement gains,” Shearouse said.