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U.S. aid available to Arkansas private schools

$22.8M lined up for 47 campuses by Cynthia Howell | April 17, 2021 at 9:33 a.m.
Shiloh Christian School

Forty-seven parochial and private schools in Arkansas are eligible for federally funded services or assistance to offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their campuses.

The amounts of federal support available to the campuses, according to allocations announced Friday by the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, range from $38,186 to as much as $1.86 million.

Arkansas can make up to $22.8 million available to nonpublic schools. The amounts announced Friday total $20 million.

They include $1.86 million for Pulaski Academy in Little Rock; $1.470 for Central Arkansas Christian Schools Inc. in North Little Rock; almost $1.5 million for Episcopal Collegiate School in Little Rock; $1.3 million for Shiloh Christian School in Springdale and Rogers; and just over $1 million for Little Rock Catholic High for Boys in Little Rock.

The support was made available at a time when state public schools also received federal funding. The relief to Arkansas education has been issued in three rounds over a year's time and totals nearly $1.9 billion.

The Emergency Assistance for Non-public Schools program makes it possible for nonprofit private and parochial schools to receive help to address the impact of the pandemic.

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The money that is controlled by the state can be used for equipment, materials and other items but must be "secular, neutral and non-ideological," according to the guidelines on the Elementary and Secondary Education Division's website.

The nonpublic schools can apply for services or assistance that can include cleaning materials, protective equipment and improved ventilation systems. Physical barriers to help with social distancing, virus testing, educational technology and transportation costs are among the expenses that can be covered.

Some of the nonpublic school purchases can be reimbursed with the federal money upon the showing of proper documentation such as a bill of sale or credit card statement.

Other larger purchases such as ventilation systems, windows, professional training, redevelopment of instructional plans to include remote and hybrid learning and initiatives to address learning loss have to be authorized by the state, which will pay the vendor.

The state holds the title to the purchases made by the nonpublic schools with the relief funding. At the end of the period in which the funds must be used -- September 2023, the state agency and the school must consult to determine if the materials and equipment will remain in use at the school or returned to the state agency.

To be eligible for the federal support, the nonpublic school must be a nonprofit school that was in operation before March 1, 2020.

The applicant school must be accredited or otherwise approved to operate in accordance with state law. Additionally the applicant schools can't qualify if they are seeking loans under the Small Business Administrations' Paycheck Protection Program.

The division is responsible for allocating the federal support to the eligible schools. Priority is given based on poverty data from the U.S. Census Bureau and on covid-19 data from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement.


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