Elementary and secondary schools were allocated $122.7 billion in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The law stipulates that funding is to be distributed as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grants, and education leaders have until the end of the 2023-2024 school year to spend the new revenue.
The U.S. Department of Education is currently reviewing state ESSER spending plans and releasing funds as soon as it approves them.
Although plans are passed through state officials, local school districts have wide latitude to list the projects they want funded. This column provides examples of how a few school districts throughout the country plan to use the new funds. The plans have many common attributes.
District Two of the Dorchester School system has been allocated $40.5 million, and school officials involved their community in drafting a spending plan. The main areas of focus are educational technology, infrastructure support, indoor air quality, facility upgrades, and after-school programs for students.
The Clarksville-Montgomery County School System will receive $58 in ESSER funding and school officials want approval to spend approximately $26 million for building maintenance and upcoming capital projects. School leaders, with community support, plan to digitize all student records at a cost of approximately $141,250. Funding for the technology modernization that is needed will cost $4.3 million, which includes new technology and cybersecurity purchases. Facility upgrades and construction projects also will have funding allocations.
Amherst County Public School officials already have issued a solicitation for the design and construction of a new auditorium at Amherst County High School. Other planned projects include renovation of a cafeteria and the current auditorium. Of the $7.3 million allocated for the school district, approximately $5.5 million will be used for high school renovation projects and decisions related to spending the rest of the funding will be finalized in 2022.
The Weimar Independent School District, using ESSER funding of $913,400, will purchase education technology (hardware, software, and connectivity) for students. School officials need new technology to enhance interaction between students and instructors. Other expenditures will be made for inspections, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrades to improve indoor air quality in school facilities.
The Natalia Independent School District is eligible for $1.8 million, and there are plans to spend $435,000 on technology hotspots, Chromebooks, outdoor Wi-Fi, fiber additions, and a hypervisor with software that creates and runs virtual machines. The district also will spend $499,000 on personal protective equipment, air and filtration upgrades, and sanitation supplies.
The Nogales Unified School District was awarded approximately $17.4 million, and spending plans include $5.24 million for textbooks and instructional materials. Another $897,000 will be used for technology-related purchases, including multiple-year anti-virus software programs, online payment systems, and document signature projects that were begun with prior ESSER funding. Approximately $2.74 million will be spent on sanitation supplies and personal protection equipment such as masks and gloves, air purification equipment, and disinfecting products. The district also plans to use $156,000 to purchase four vans and $514,200 for instructional software.
The Millard School District will receive approximately $3 million in ESSER funding. Anticipated purchases include new chillers for Delta High School Palladium at a cost of $439,000. Other purchases will likely include new laptops and desktops at a cost of $322,750, Chromebooks for approximately $1.47 million and Chromebook cases for $1.45 million. Approximately $912,750 is allocated for camera systems for contact tracing and $512,750 for classroom cameras and microphones for recording lessons.
Braxton County School District’s plan for ESSER funding of $7.32 million includes an infrastructure technology allocation of $40,000 for GPS tracking software, $409,200 to replace inoperable equipment, and $9,244 for school technology for inventory management. Another $4.1 million is earmarked for the replacement and revisions of HVAC equipment.
Pitt County Schools, which serves 23,000 students, will receive $80 million in ESSER funding. There are plans to spend $2.8 million on technology purchases and $2.6 million to improve air quality. The district plan allocates approximately $12 million for purchases related to student learning $6 million for air quality projects and new HVAC systems as well as replacing carpeting with tile flooring. The plan includes $3.7 million for technology and $2 million for outdoor classroom spaces. The district has another $11 million in federal funds that have not yet been allocated.
Gary Community School Corporation is set to receive a total of $71 million in funding, which it plans to use to make facility improvements including replacing several new boilers at an anticipated cost of $800,000. Some existing tennis courts will get upgrades and new roof replacements will be made along with other upgrades.
The Grand Forks School Board has announced spending plans that include $6 million for safety projects, approximately $2.4 million for technology modernization, and $2.6 million for improving air quality.
The Lee County School District board of trustees approved spending approximately $9.4 million in ESSER funding to complete many projects already underway. Another $540,000 will be used to upgrade technology infrastructure throughout the district. Planned purchases include servers and Internet access points. Another $28,000 is tagged for other technology projects, and $1 million will be spend for employee laptops. HVAC systems will be upgraded, cafeterias will be equipped with scanners, windows will be upgraded for better airflow, and school carpeting will be replaced with hard surface flooring.
Local contractors are advised to watch for final project approvals. Most school officials have projects ready to launch as soon as the funding reaches them.