Council OKs funding support for schools’ grant
As schools continue their push to land a state grant to improve internet access in Harrison County, they’ll need some local financial support.
Allison Schalk, a digital learning coach for the Lanesville Community School Corp., said the scope of their plans has gone up since meeting with the county commissioners last week.
Lanesville schools partnered with North Harrison and South Harrison Community School corporations, along with St. Joseph Catholic and St. John’s Lutheran Evangelical schools, to apply for Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds through a $61.6 million initiative by Gov. Eric Holcomb to improve remote learning, with K-12 institutions eligible for $50 million of the funds.
Schalk told the Harrison County Council Monday night that the schools want to seek $1,050,000 in funding through a grant, up from the $750,000 maximum she thought she’d be seeking last week.
“We are the highest requesting grant I’ve heard of,” Schalk said.
According to Schalk, the second-highest request in the state is around the $250,000 range, from what she knows about other schools’ applications.
“We have an opportunity to get almost a million dollars of internet connectivity to Harrison County, but I need to get below that $1 million mark,” Schalk said.
Schalk asked the council for up to $100,000 to make this county-wide initiative more likely to get awarded grant money. County officials are checking to see if this request could be reimbursed as part of COVID-19 relief.
“Personally, I am going to stand behind that 100%, because if we can do that for $100,000 to help them get $1 million, I think it is something we need to do,” said Councilor Brad Wiseman.
Wiseman made a motion to send a letter of support with the proposal to help the schools apply for the money. It was approved by all six council members present. Kyle Nix was absent.
Wiseman also motioned for the county funding to come from the county’s casino fund. Five members supported that motion, with councilman Gary Byrne voting against it.
“We’re in the hole,” Byrne said. “Everybody is going to have something that’s going to tug at your heartstring, and you don’t got it.”
Schalk said the proposal calls for internet access to be made available to 1,200 homes that didn’t have an option before, and the cost went above the $1 million mark when the schools looked at how to bring internet service to Mauckport. Anyone can access this service, whether there is a traditional student living in the home, a home-schooled student or no students.
“We feel like the southern part of the county needs access and no (company) has any plans to get there any time soon,” Schalk said.
Through this plan, a new service provider would be in the county.
Schalk said her research found internet customers in the county pay a higher average rate than people in neighboring counties.
“Maybe a little bit of competition wouldn’t be the worst thing,” Schalk said.
Schalk apologized she didn’t make this request to the Harrison County Board of Commissioners first but didn’t know last week that the request would grow. With the state’s deadline set for this week, the commissioners are holding a special meeting tomorrow (Thursday) at 9 a.m. at the government center. They could approve the schools’ request at the meeting.
This money is in addition to CARES Act funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund already allocated to schools, based on enrollment and the number of low-income students. Lanesville schools were given $35,488.35, North Harrison received $215,115.43 and South Harrison was given $370,965.60.
This money is also supposed to be shared with private schools inside school districts’ boundaries.
“The schools have already pledged over $1 million for devices for the upcoming school year,” said Schalk, adding this money was from its CARES Act funds and money the schools already have in their budgets.
Harrison County schools are hoping their grant proposal is one of the dozens expected to be awarded. The state said there is no minimum or maximum threshold; however, grants may not be funded at the full amount requested.
The county council’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 27, at 7 p.m. at the government center.