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Lamont to spend COVID funds on summer education programs

Connecticut plans to allocate millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds toward education programs designed to help make up for learning lost by the state’s schoolchildren during the pandemic.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that $10.7 million of Connecticut’s federal pandemic recovery funding will pay for an initiative he’s calling the Learner Engagement and Attendance Program or LEAP, which will be a partnership between the state Department of Education and six regional state Education Service Centers.

Among other things, the program will send people directly into homes to work with families who have been struggling with absenteeism and remote learning in 15 particularly hard-hit school districts, including Danbury.

The money also will help fund summer camps and other educational experiences, which Lamont said the state will encourage students to attend before school resumes in the fall as a way to make up for lost time in the classroom.

“I want to make sure that we can provide that to kids at virtually no charge and no cost to every kid that wants to go,” Lamont said during an education roundtable in Meriden. “I want to put a youth corps together so that these kids have a friend, a mentor; that they get free access to museums and aquariums and libraries — all different ways that our kids can hit the ground running in September.”

Officials said the LEAP program will have three goals: to bridge students back to their school communities for the final months of the school year; to support enrollment in those summer programs and to facilitate a seamless transition back into the classroom for the 2021-22 school year.

State education officials said they used data collected through the state’s new attendance tracking system to identify the districts with the greatest need and allocate the LEAP funds to those areas.

The state last fall used relief dollars to distribute 141,000 laptops and 44,000 at-home internet connections for students in need.

U.S. Sen Richard Blumenthal told the roundtable that millions more in education money will be coming to the state in the next few months as part of the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan and he said local school districts will be able to decide how to spend those funds.

Lamont said the state will receive $1.1 billion in education money from that plan over the next three years.

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes says chronic absenteeism and disengagement continue to be barriers to success.  She added that these problems have become exacerbated during this pandemic, especially in high need school districts.  Hayes added that this new program by the state is an example of how the American Rescue Plan will help struggling schools and students around the country.


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Dave Rinelli

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