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Horry County Schools will soon receive over $2.2 million in additional funding for students with disabilities from the American Rescue Plan Act, according to the S.C. Department of Education.

"South Carolina's vulnerable student populations continue to be adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic," said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. "These funds will be used by school districts to address the specific needs of students with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness so that they have every opportunity to be successful now and into the future."

The funding will be distributed through two grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): one for Section 611 regarding children ages three through 21 and Section 619 for children ages three through five.

Horry County Schools will receive $2.1 million for Section 611 and $182,000 for Section 619. HCS receives the third largest allotment, behind Charleston and Greenville Counties.

These allocations can be used for all expenses allowed under IDEA with a focus on relieving challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the SCDE.

These uses include support and direct services for students with disabilities, improving the use of technology in the classroom or in a remote setting to enhance learning and providing compensatory services based on Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team decisions.

For a full list of uses and district allocations, visit here.

"HCS is excited to receive approximately $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to support the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grant programs targeted at students with disabilities," said HCS spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier. "Our funding will focus on alleviating challenges sparked by the pandemic for students with disabilities."

The state was also allocated $13.8 for children who are homeless and youth funding, with $10.4 million going directly to districts and the rest reserved by the SCDE’s McKinney-Vento Program to help districts identify and support children and youth who are experiencing homelessness.

HCS will receive $440,000 from that allocation to support this population.

According to the SCDE, during the 2019-2020 school year, 12,000 students in the state were identified as experiencing homelessness.

Uses for that funding may include a number of items including purchasing needed supplies like eyeglasses, school supplies and personal care items, as well as providing transportation for students and giving them access to reliable, high-speed internet.

Spearman said last week that school districts now have the ability to mandate masks if they wish to do so, after a decision from the South Carolina Supreme Court.

The court said that Proviso 1.108, which bans districts from making mask mandates, is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Title II) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).

HCS has made no official mask mandate decisions as of Tuesday, and board chairman Ken Richardson said that any comments on the subject will be made at their next scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 11.

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