Twin brothers Armani (left) and Amari Johnson, both 9, read instructions for math class via Zoom with classmates. The boys participate in classes while at the Mississippi Children’s Museum. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Gov. Tate Reeves awarded another $3.46 million of emergency education funds to child care centers and educational organizations in the state.

This marked the third round of applications and awards for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER). The funding is meant to provide relief to schools that have been most significantly impacted by COVID-19.

Reeves’ office highlighted two priorities for the $34.6 million Mississippi received: first, educational services for children up to 12 years old and those with disabilities; and second, innovative educational solutions for children of all ages, including college students.

The third and last round of funding was a repeat of the first round. The money went to those that applied but did not receive funding in the first round and all other eligible applicants. Click here for a full list of organizations and funding amounts.

McCarty Learning Center in Picayune is one of six child care centers to receive funding. It received a total of $171,700 for two separate grants.

Director Thelma Cox said the money will be used to provide child care for 40 children under five years old and 10 school-age children who also receive assistance with their schoolwork while at the center.

Nine other educational entities, including universities and nonprofits, received funding for various projects. Waterford.org, the Utah-based virtual education organization that received nearly $2 million in the first round of GEER funding, got an additional $124,451.53.

READ MORE: Gov. Tate Reeves capped federal education grants at $1 million. This Utah-based group received nearly twice that amount.

Kim Fischer, spokesperson for the group, said Waterford.org is partnering with three statewide coalitions to allow up to 100 child care providers to access Waterford Upstart, the 15- to 20-minute-a-day computer adaptive program for preschoolers. They are also offering 25 computers for centers.

Centers will have access to the program for a four-month period.

Delta Health Alliance received $472,680 to work with school districts to provide child care five days a week for children who are distance learning. The opportunity is open to parents who are living or working in Washington and Sunflower Counties, and children also receive assistance with their schoolwork from employees at the center.

They also offer services such as physical education, social emotional learning exercises and daily nutrition information to try and replicate some of the activities they do while in school, said Karen Matthews, president and CEO of Delta Health Alliance.

All of the children they serve attend schools that are currently operating virtually, though some may shift to more in-person in coming months.

The second part of Delta Health Alliance’s project will be to open up a similar program for eight weeks in the summer to 300 children. The goal is to address academic learning loss as a result of the pandemic while also continuing to allow parents to work.

Money left over in the $34.6 million pot will be used to defray administrative costs and toward a supplemental grant, said Holly Spivey, Reeves’ education advisor.

The U.S. Department of Education announced the nearly $3 billion in GEER funds in April 2020 to “quickly be made available to governors to ensure education continues for students of all ages impacted by the coronavirus national emergency,” the department said in a press release at the time.

In Mississippi, there were a total of three funding rounds, or chances to apply for the money. For the first round, the governor’s office awarded $5.4 million for educational services for children under five years old. This second round, in which the governor’s office awarded $23.4 million earlier this month, was for innovative opportunities in education.

Reeves will also received a second set of GEER funds, called GEER II, through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA). Mississippi is receiving $46 million, $31 million of which must go to private and independent schools.

Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.