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Illinois state school board rejects district's plan to use Covid relief money on new turf for football stadium

Sept. 2, 2021
The Anna-Jonesboro district wanted to spend $867,000 to install artificial turf at its high school stadium.

The Illinois State Board of Education has rejected a high school's request to use Covid relief funds to pay for new artificial turf on its football field.

The Southern Illinoisan reports that the state board's disapproval of the grant application from  Anna-Jonesboro Community High School in Anna, Ill., comes after a heated community debate over what is and is not an appropriate use of COVID-19 relief funds.

The Anna district's board voted at its July meeting on a $1.9 million spending plan that dedicated nearly half of the school’s ESSER III relief funds--$867,300--on artificial turf for the football field.

According to guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education, allowable grant uses include providing mental health services and support, addressing the needs of low-income students and students with disabilities, ​​helping to provide access to technology, and addressing challenges associated with the coronavirus.

A number of concerned community members, parents and teachers have spoken out about how the funds are to be spent and said there needs to be more of a focus on mental health.

Some of the Anna district’s Covid-19 dollars is going toward a social worker’s salary and benefits for three years; 30 wifi hotspot subscriptions; and a HVAC system for the lower gym and related upgrades, documents show.

The state board sent the grant back to the district to be reworked.

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