School Funding

Chelmsford officials discuss importance of ARPA funding

CHELMSFORD — U.S. Representative Lori Trahan visited Parker Middle School on Monday to discuss the more than $800,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding that Chelmsford Public Schools has received to help students access the online learning during the pandemic.

The district received a total of $815,130 from the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund program, which was used to purchase 2,200 Google Chromebooks allowing middle and high school students to complete their classes at home. , as well as 70 Wi-Fi hotspots that students can check with their parents. permission from any library in the district. Parker Middle School, McCarthy Middle School, and Chelmsford High School have a combined population of approximately 3,000 students.

Members of the School Board and Select Council, Superintendent of Schools Jay Lang, City Manager Paul Cohen and other officials discussed the impact of ARPA funding in front of a group of history and education students civics of the college, who asked questions after the conference.

The pandemic, Trahan said, has highlighted the growing “digital divide” in schools — some students lack stable internet or reliable technology, which means they may fall behind on their peers. While these resources are important in the virtual learning environment, Trahan said local governments should always invest in technology outside of the classroom.

“Parents, myself included, found ourselves turning the kitchen table into desks for our kids, becoming home computer experts when the software didn’t work,” Trahan said in an interview. “I think a lot of the technological adjustments we’ve been forced to make during COVID, especially in our schools, are here to stay, and I strongly believe we should embrace that.”

The American Rescue Plan Act passed Congress last year, with Trahan’s support, and formed the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund – a program that aims to provide resources to libraries and schools to helping students access the internet for remote learning during the pandemic.

Cohen said receiving this extra support during the pandemic was critical and will benefit the next generation as they continue to learn.

“The funding will ensure that all students at Chelmsford will have the ability to access the internet with a computer,” Cohen said. “This will help fulfill the city’s educational responsibilities, which includes preparing our young people for the digital world of today and tomorrow.

The ARPA Fund has since allocated nearly $7.2 billion across the country, with a total of $4.3 million for 25 schools and libraries in the 3rd Congressional District this year, which will go towards the costs of computers and off-campus Internet connectivity. Chelmsford Public Schools received the second highest funding in the region behind Haverhill, which accepted $823,629. Ayer-Shirley Regional School District and Dracut Public Schools received $358,000 and $110,000, respectively.

Students rely on online research and digital resources to continue learning and completing assignments, and Lang said the $800,000 funding meets the needs of many students in Chelmsford schools.

“The pandemic has shown how essential access to the internet and necessary technology is for students,” Lang said in a press release. “We are grateful for the Congresswoman’s continued partnership and support and look forward to our continued work to ensure that every student in Chelmsford has access to the tools they need to succeed in the classroom.”

Trahan expressed support for other programs designed to bridge the “homework divide,” she said, noting that Congress has spent about $190 billion on elementary and secondary education in the past two years.

New laptops and tablets, along with routers, access points and other broadband connectivity purchases, allow local schools to level the playing field for students, Trahan said.

“These are all urgent needs as our communities continue to depend on internet access and the technology necessary for online learning and school work,” Trahan said. “I look forward to continuing these investments in the towns and villages of the 3rd arrondissement.”