District 51 gets $6.7M in stimulus funding

Money will go toward more special education

Federal stimulus dollars will arrive in Mesa County as early as next month.

That’s when Judy Thornburg, School District 51’s director of student services, expects to see more than $4.3 million roll in to pay for new special education and program services for the district.

Thornburg plans to distribute the money for the following: a program for children with severe autism; helping special-needs students live more independently; equipment to aid hearing and other needs; a program for students ages 18 to 21; and equipment to help teachers implement a new math program this fall.

District 51 had to meet 20 indicators that show local schools are on the right track with student improvement in order to receive special-needs funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“To my knowledge, we are the largest school district in the state to get this done,” Thornburg said.

The district will also receive $81,492 for instructional technology and $2.3 million through Title I stimulus funding provided by the recovery act. That money is just a small chunk of what the state of Colorado has requested in federal recovery act funding through the state fiscal stabilization fund. The state has requested $152 million to keep kindergarten through 12th grade education funding at or above this year’s levels in fiscal year 2010.

An additional $138.4 million will go to a government-services fund for education, health care, public and social services and balancing the state budget.

The state requested $150.7 million to shore up higher education funding for 2009, and it asked the federal government to provide the same amount of money for public universities and colleges next year.

From the 2009 funds, Mesa State College is expected to receive at least $4.1 million.

That’s the amount cut from original higher-education-funding projections for the college, Mesa State spokeswoman Dana Nunn said.

Nunn said the college has not received any other stimulus funding. If Mesa State did see some recovery dollars, it likely would be flagged for retrofitting solar panels to buildings on campus.

Local municipalities are eyeing stimulus funding as well.

Mesa County has or will apply for several grants and loans. So far, it has secured grant money to make riverfront-trail improvements, construct a new maintenance facility for the Grand Valley Transit bus system, and purchase a computer-aided dispatch and records-management system. Lower Valley Public Improvement District has procured a loan to start construction as early as this September on a new sewage-treatment plant in Mack.

The city of Grand Junction is in the process of making a dozen recovery-fund requests.

As of June 4, the city had submitted applications for public-safety projects, the replacement of septic systems with sewer lines, and a clean-natural-gas fueling station.


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