After months of delays, the Maine Department of Education has finally released hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to local districts to assist homeless students.
Since last fall, the department has offered multiple opportunities for districts to apply for more than $200,000 in federal McKinney-Vento subgrants. The department only awarded a conditional grant to one district, leaving others uncertain.
Last week, however, the department told districts that after months of delays, it was canceling the last round of grants and was instead providing money to every district that applied in the most recent request for proposals.
"We are pleased with the final outcome here," says Bill Webster. Webster is superintendent for the Lewiston School Department, which was forced to find money in its local budget due the continued delays. "We are concerned with how we got here. And we hope that this is not a process that we will have to all go through again."
Erica Mazzeo is the director of curriculum and instruction at RSU 57, a large, rural district near Sanford. She says while the funding is limited, it'll hopefully allow her district to provide programs for some students during school break this spring, "to take time away from some of the pressures of daily life, which are exponential for young people in these situations, and offer them the opportunity to look at their own horizons, more broadly."
Other districts receiving money include Bangor, Augusta and Portland. In a statement, Maine Education Department spokeswoman Rachel Paling said officials "felt that it was important to get the funding released as soon as possible."