PSS awaits approval of $160M spending plan

PSS: CNMI Education Commissioner Alfred Ada said he is confident the U.S. Department of Education will approve the CNMI Public School System's plan for $160 million in additional federal funds. Contributed photo

SAIPAN — The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Public School System is waiting for U.S. Department of Education approval of the PSS expenditure plan for the $160 million Education Stabilization Fund provided through the American Rescue Plan.

CNMI Education Commissioner Alfred Ada said in an interview that, as in the past, when PSS was allotted federal funding, it has to submit an expenditure plan to USDOE for approval. He said the school system submitted the spending plan on July 9.

The commissioner said he is confident the federal agency will approve the plan, and PSS expects to hear from USDOE next week.

Ada said the ARP funds for PSS are considered the third round of the Education Stabilization Fund or ESF, and will have to be spent on measures and services to address the impact of COVID-19 on CNMI education.

These include efforts to address learning loss and programs for social-emotional learning.

Ada said the school system also will use the ESF-ARP funds to hire four certified nurses for health screening at all school levels.

The ESF-ARP funds will likewise allow PSS to provide schools with the necessary technology and equipment to conduct virtual learning.

Ada said PSS will make sure that every student has a laptop and a MiFi device.

Moreover, he said, the ESF-ARP funds will allow PSS to hire teachers to fill the positions that were vacated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

PSS will resume classes five days a week and provide more professional development and training for teachers and parents, Ada said.

PSS earlier received the first and second rounds of ESF in the amount of $23 million and $61.7 million, respectively.

The second round of ESF provided students with laptops, but there is still $40 million left to be spent.