How would you spend $500 million? Memphis school district wants to know

Students listen to a member of the Memphis 901 FC during a Shelby County Schools Hispanic Heritage Month reading event in 2019.
If you had $500 million, how would you spend it to improve Shelby County Schools? Local residents have through Sunday to take survey and share their opinions. (Laura Faith Kebede / Chalkbeat)

If you had $500 million, how would you spend it to improve Shelby County Schools?

Local residents have through Sunday to take a survey and share their opinions with the Memphis school district about how to spend some of its federal stimulus money.

The district’s $503 million grant is its third multimillion-dollar grant under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. The Biden administration has provided the series of grants to states, charter school networks, private schools, and public school districts to help cover the extra cost associated with education in a pandemic, such as laptops and technology upgrades for virtual learning and masks, plexiglass barriers, and other protective equipment in classrooms. 

The district has already decided that about half of the grant will go toward repairs to aging school buildings. Future projects include merging Treadwell Elementary and Treadwell Middle School into a New Treadwell K-8 school, a multiyear project estimated to cost $34 million, and a new high school in Frayser, another multiyear project estimated to cost $89 million. 

Some innovative uses of the money in other parts of the country include an Arkansas Tutoring Corps that will recruit and train tutors to help students who fell behind academically because of the pandemic’s disruption to education, and Washington, D.C.’s Out of School Time initiative, which will provide grants to community organizations to develop neighborhood-based intervention programs. 

The Shelby County Schools feedback survey asks community members to rank spending options like smaller class sizes, new virtual learning opportunities, and more mental health services. 

Tennessee districts must send their spending plans to the state department of education by Aug. 27. The state will award distinctions to districts that emphasize academics in their spending plans. 

The district’s total budget, which includes construction costs, salaries, and academic programs, is about $2.2 billion, its largest ever.

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