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Rural schools say state aid will help address tech issues and connectivity

One Mid-Michigan superintendent says some extra state aid will go a long way.
Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 11:10 PM EDT
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NEW LOTHROP, Mich. (WJRT) - (09/30/2020) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a $62.7 billion state budget on Wednesday, just hours before the new fiscal year.

The budget funds a new tuition-assistance program for adults while avoiding major government cuts despite the economic downturn.

The plan, which had bipartisan support, also includes a slight boost in aid for schools and a full or partial restoration of tourism and job-training funds that were previously vetoed.

For school districts across the state, that means a little bit of relief.

It comes at a time where spending is higher than usual for some much-needed resources like electronic devices, cleaning supplies, and stronger WiFi.

One Mid-Michigan superintendent says there are certainly challenges facing his rural community, and how some extra aid will go a long way.

″We didn’t budget for a pandemic. Nobody did," Anthony Berthiaume said.

Berthiaume is the Superintendent of New Lothrop Area Public Schools. He says Governor Whitmer signing the 2021 budget starting October 1st is a good thing for his district. Part of it means $161 million in flexible per pupil spending to help districts with higher costs of educating students because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The PPE piece, the disinfectant, the custodial piece and maintenance of wiping down desks. Anything that we wouldn’t normally have done during this time period will really help offset those costs," Berthiaume said.

That’s still doesn’t cover everything though. Berthiaume says that’s for the 85% of students in the district are back to in-person learning, but there’s still that 15% or so learning from home, and they won’t be forgotten.

“As far as virtual learning, what we’re seeing is the connectivity piece, especially in our rural area. People not having WiFi access. That’s one of the pieces that we definitely need to upgrade in, hopefully statewide in our rural areas, but definitely for this school year with the virtual learners," Berthiaume said.

At the end of the day, he knows more funding will accomplish two important goals: keeping students and teachers safe while providing the best education possible, whether it’s in-person or online.

“I really, truly feel our teachers have stepped up to the plate in regards to doing both in-person and the virtual. Getting the same type of education as they would if they were in person or vise-versa. That to me as the instructional leader of the district making sure that both in-person and virtual receive that education," Berthiaume said.

Berthiaume also says many students are using their own devices, and he hopes to purchase more Chrome Books, replacing ones that are more than five years old.

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