Montana OPI encourages school districts to use federal COVID relief money

Montana OPI encourages school districts to use federal COVID relief money

HELENA — The federal government has set apart hundreds of thousands and thousands of bucks for Montana college districts, to assistance tackle the impacts COVID has had on college students. Now, state instruction leaders are encouraging districts to get creative with how they use the dollars.

Congress accepted a few individual rounds of Elementary and Secondary College Crisis Relief, or ESSER, funding – totaling $189.5 billion nationwide and about $600 million for Montana. On Tuesday, Superintendent of General public Instruction Elsie Arntzen structured a panel dialogue at the Montana Condition Capitol, showcasing what districts close to the point out have done with their share of the funding.

“Today’s party was trying to market the truth that the ESSER money are pretty adaptable, and demonstrating that various districts are, in truth, applying those people money pretty in a different way,” claimed Wendi Fawns, of the Montana Workplace of General public Instruction.

Fawns is OPI’s director for ESSER and the associated program EANS, which supports non-public colleges. She and her crew have worked with districts to come across ways to use the funding to deal with regional requires when assembly the specifications of the federal packages.

The largest pot of ESSER dollars came from the American Rescue Program Act – $382 million. Districts have until September 2024 to use that revenue. So far, they’ve spent just around $84 million – about 22%.

Fawns mentioned significantly of the to start with spherical of ESSER funding went towards technological know-how and wellbeing and security precautions. Since then, she claimed districts have commonly invested in skilled progress and educational places like literacy and math, as nicely as tying lecturers with social and psychological understanding.

“I believe which is really what the tale is, is how do we use these money in a way to do anything that we usually just described about seeking to retain colleges open?” stated Stephen Schreibeis, superintendent of Glendive Public Schools. “How do we get better, and then how do we invest in that academic restoration?”

Schreibeis was one particular of quite a few directors who spoke in the course of Tuesday’s discussion. Most reported they’d made use of some of their ESSER revenue for the very same sorts of needs, but they also shared far more unique strategies they’ve pursued.

Focus on Array University District, near Missoula, applied some of the dollars for an increased playground that can also be utilized as an outdoor studying place, specifically for social and psychological improvement. Eureka General public Universities acquired aid equipment for a new course on “tiny home” development, aimed at achieving college students who have been battling for the duration of and after the pandemic. The Fergus County superintendent of universities stated, in the rural educational institutions she oversees, it was a obstacle to thoroughly cleanse and sanitize carpet when health fears arose, so they used ESSER funds to set up new laminate flooring.

In Glendive, Schreibeis explained they applied some ESSER cash to put in a short term h2o program at just one of their universities soon after it was discovered to have a drinking water top quality situation. He stated that authorized them to stay in the making as a substitute of returning to distant understanding – which he stated would have created it more difficult to deal with ongoing learning reduction due to the fact the pandemic.

“There are districts who know very clearly what they want to invest the cash on, and then some occasion will manifest that modifications all that,” stated Fawns. “So the discussion then is, ‘Can we transform the use of cash and what do we do going ahead?’”

Fawns explained one particular of OPI’s aims is to motivate districts to establish partnerships with corporations in their group, so they can make ESSER dollars go farther.

“When ESSER funds can be applied to support make potential amongst, say, a Rotary Club or a 4-H agent, with a community faculty district, that will make the programming energy a great deal far more sustainable, because you have many sources of funding coming in,” she explained.