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Syracuse City School District wants to know how to spend $109 million in federal stimulus funds

Shinichi Sugiyama
Syracuse schools seek community input on federal stimulus money

The Syracuse City School District is asking for input from the community to decide how to spend an influx in federal dollars in the wake of the pandemic. The district is expecting about $109 million as part of ARPA, or the American Rescue Plan Act. They’re asking people who live in the district to make their voices heard through an online survey.  

Chief Financial Officer Suzanne Slack said at first, she wasn’t sure what the financial impact of the pandemic would be for the district, and she and the superintendent were shocked when they first heard about the federal support coming in.

“We sat at the table shaking our heads saying, ‘This can’t be right. Something must be wrong. Don’t tell anybody until we figure out that it’s actually correct,’ because it is literally unbelievable to me, and it’s such a miracle for Syracuse,” said Slack.

Slack said it’s important for district administrators to listen to the community before deciding how to spend the money.

"It doesn't belong to us,” said Slack. “It belongs to the people that are paying those taxes and to the kids sitting in those classrooms, and if we don't include them in decision making, I think we're doing them a disservice."

Shandell Stevens has a daughter who just finished her senior year in the district. She said her daughter spent the whole year learning virtually because they were worried about COVID-19. She’d like to see the influx in funds go toward making schools as safe as possible, with updated purifiers and filters.

"I couldn't chance it for my one daughter to catch Coronavirus, and them telling me, 'I'm sorry Miss Stevens.' I don't think I could've dealt with that, so I let her stay home," said Stevens.

Ebrima Krubally has children ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade in the Syracuse City School District. He would like to see more academic and social opportunities for the students.

"We're going through a hard time with COVID, so it would be nice to have the kids have activities," said Krubally.

Slack said the district is focusing on five main categories for the money: learning, social and emotional support, air quality and safety, technology, and professional development.

The money is designed to be spent through September of 2024, but students will start seeing benefits right away, through a full-day summer school program funded by federal dollars and a partnership with OCC.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.