As we look back over the past year, disruption and uncertainty dominated every facet of the educational process. Statewide health and prevention guidance forced school districts to rethink everything from educational delivery methods and teaching platforms to the reallocation of space for in-person learning.
Though these unexpected challenges have limited us in our personal interaction, the pandemic also has brought opportunities for innovation and growth. Financial relief legislation passed in December 2020 for K-12 districts provides an additional $54.3 billion to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II). Preliminary estimates show Ohio is to receive $1.99 billion while Indiana is to receive $888 million. These funds are meant to mitigate impacts of COVID-19 on students and families by addressing student learning loss and creating healthy and safe buildings.
The question is how to effectively invest these funds to enhance the education experience for your students and staff. Treasurers, board members, parents, students and local contractors have likely shared their own ideas with you. Prioritizing your needs is the key to maximizing the ESSER II fund’s impact.
The parameters for spending are wide, as ESSER II monies can be used for projects such as:
- Ventilation and HVAC system improvements
- Disinfection/sanitation protocols and equipment
- Upgraded infrastructure
- Technology enhancements
- Instructional and curriculum enrichment.
ESSER funds can be used for expenses directly related to COVID-19 or for indirect expenditures such as maintaining your district’s normal operations. The use of ESSER II funds may free up other monies you had set aside so you can tackle a project you had placed on the back burner.
Time is of the essence. While ESSER II funds may be used until Sept. 30, 2023, proper planning is needed so you can achieve maximum impact. No one can deny the long-term benefits to our schools and communities by providing safe, smart learning environments.