Pop Quiz: Are School COVID Relief Funds Working?

Last September, McAllen, a mid-sized city in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, was considering how best to spend some of the nearly $140 million it received in federal COVID-relief funds. In addition to hiring counselors and educational staff, the McAllen Independent School District (ISD) Board of Trustees had another idea: What if it expanded a “historic Spanish Revival adobe hacienda surrounded by lush tropical landscaping & native woodland?”

The Quinta Mazatlan, which the board unanimously voted to spend $4 million to expand, is an old estate and lush bird sanctuary owned by the city of McAllen. The money will fund construction of a school science center on the grounds, with the aim of teaching students about ecology.

“We’re using this money to address achievement gaps, which do exist as a result of COVID, and this will not only address those achievement gaps, but it’s going to connect kids to higher education, and it’s going to bolster their education in the scientific realm for decades to come,” McAllen ISD spokesperson Mark May told local news station KRGV.

One of the funds’ major purposes is to address learning loss, which remains a problem after COVID. One national analysis showed that in spring 2021, K-12 students were an average of five months behind in math and four months behind in reading.

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