Local School Districts Use ESSER Funding to Mitigate COVID-19 Learning Loss

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Athens County school districts are using federal elementary and secondary school emergency relief funds, or ESSERs, to deal with learning loss due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Each local school district – including the Alexander Local School District, Trimble Local School District and Athens city school district (ACSD) – used their funding in slightly different ways. Districts have focused on supporting e-learning and creating safer and cleaner learning environments. The Ohio Department of Education has received more than $ 440 million in ESSER funds to be allocated to local education agencies.

ESSER funding has been received by school districts in three different cycles. Local districts currently have budgets and funding approved for Round 2, or ESSER II, by the Ohio Department of Education.

The amount of funding a particular school district received was based on the Title I formula, which comes from the Federal Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES, on coronaviruses.

ASCD received almost $ 3 million during this funding cycle, while the local school district of Alexander and the local school district of Trimble received only about $ 1.5 million during the same. Funding cycle, according to ESSER II Funding Budgets for Athens School Districts provided by the Ohio Department of Education website.

Alexander and Trimble both implemented a summer school program to address learning loss.

“We are building a much more robust summer school program for our students,” said Jared Bunting, Treasurer and CFO of Trimble. “After the first year… we had a pretty good success story with it. We had eight seniors who were able to graduate over the summer, which otherwise would not have been the case.

ACSD also plans to create weekend and summer credit recovery programs with its second ESSER funding round.

Additionally, Alexander and Trimble were both able to find gaps in their school curricula. The two districts plan to tackle issues such as the need for increased intervention support, such as reading intervention and school supervision time, and nutritional deficiencies, respectively.

The ACSD is focused on using its funding to create better online programs and ensure students have devices and Internet access, according to the budget details section of their ESSER II app.

New HVAC units and systems, along with other cleaning supplies, are also part of the planned spending by local districts for their ESSER II funds.

“The CDC recommends improving indoor air quality in buildings to reduce the risk of virus transmission indoors,” ACSD wrote in the budget details section of their ESSER II app. “These improvements are therefore reasonable and necessary expenses to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus. “

Alexander also plans to use the funding to increase his mental health services for students. Lindy Douglas, superintendent of local schools in Alexander, said they are facilitating partnerships with the National Children’s Hospital, Hopewell Recovery Services and Athens County Children’s Services to support the mental well-being of children. children.

Douglas believes the funding has helped the school district by allowing it to have additional staffing levels and more intervention programs. However, she doesn’t think all the learning losses will be alleviated in a year.

“I think we’ve all come to an agreement that it’s going to be a process. You can’t fix the learning loss in a year, ”said Douglas. “We have to look at the next three years to regain the learning loss that we have. I think one of the main goals is your high schools and meeting the graduation criteria. “

Although each local school district was able to use the funding it received at its discretion, the different uses had to fall under certain guidelines established by the United States Department of Education.

“ESSER II is intended to help states and school districts reopen schools safely, effectively measure and address significant learning losses, and take other actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the students and families who depend on our K-12 schools, ”according to the Ohio Department of Education message provided to schools at the time of the ESSER II announcements.

Each of the districts had to submit an application for funding to the Ohio Department of Education, which then had to be approved for the school to receive funding and begin implementing their ideas.

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