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ANWSD receives federal funds, awaits guidance

This is going to be a multi-year endeavor that will require us to focus strategically on improving instruction and outcomes for our students, building additional mental-health supports, and focusing on the results of our efforts through assessment and progress monitoring.
— ANWSD Superintendent Sheila Soule

VERGENNES — Like other school districts in the county, state and nation, the Addison Northwest School District has received and will continue to receive federal funding to help the district — and its students and staff — recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But according to ANWSD Superintendent Sheila Soule it remains unclear exactly how the strings attached to the funding will allow the district and other districts to spend the money, which in ANWSD’s case will total about $1.76 million over the next couple years.
Soule responded in emails to questions about the latest and largest pot of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Response (ESSER) funding, included in the American Rescue Plan Act.
The funding is coming in three waves: some was approved a year ago that the district has already received, some was OK’d in December and is just becoming available now, and the final installment will arrive over the next two years.
“There will be rules that will be shared in terms of allowable uses for these funds, which we don’t currently have,” Soule wrote. “Over the next month or so I suspect we will all be getting more information. To be clear — every school district in the state is getting ESSER money, and we will all be operating under the same requirements and accountability measures.”
Soule was asked if funding could be used to backfill district expenses, such as money already spent on extra sanitation, delivery of meals to homebound families, payments to substitute teachers, or the costs of providing laptops for remote learning.
She responded the latest round of funding is more likely to fund measures to help students, directly or indirectly.
“Those are all possible uses, but I see ESSER 3 being targeted toward recovery and moving back to full in-person instruction from a student-needs perspective,” Soule wrote.
Asked for specifics, Soule said the funding could support the district’s work to improve its delivery of education over the next several years.
“This is going to be a multi-year endeavor that will require us to focus strategically on improving instruction and outcomes for our students, building additional mental-health supports, and focusing on the results of our efforts through assessment and progress monitoring,” Soule wrote. “By focusing on improving classroom instruction through professional development and instructional support, we can ensure that our efforts will serve to leverage and lift up all students in a way that is sustainable after the funding is gone. We expect to invest in better student assessments, systems of support for students, professional development for staff, classroom coaching, and administrative supports for the additional monitoring requirements.”

FEDERAL DETAILS
According to federal websites, in the March 2020 CARES Act Congress set aside about $13.2 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund).
School officials nationwide refer to this as “ESSER 1” money.
In December, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act provided an additional $54.3 billion for ESSER 2.
Federal ESSER 3 funding totaling $122 billion comes from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act passed in March on partisan lines. Every state received a proportional amount of those funds, and every district within each state in turn received a proportional share.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the agency was set to “begin to make these funds available” in March “to fund health and safety measures consistent with CDC guidance, address the disruptions to teaching and learning resulting from the pandemic — especially for students hardest hit by the pandemic — and get students back in the classroom quickly and safely.”
Federal education officials released the following general guidelines for the use of ESSER 3 funding:
“Investing in resources to implement CDC’s K-12 operational strategy for in-person learning to keep educators, staff, and students safe; improving ventilation; purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE); and obtaining additional space to ensure social distancing in classrooms.
Avoiding devastating layoffs and hiring additional educators to address learning loss, providing support to students and existing staff, and providing sufficient staffing to facilitate social distancing.
Implementing strategies to meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students hit hardest by the pandemic, including through evidence-based interventions and critical services like community schools.
Funding crucial summer, afterschool, and other extended learning and enrichment programs.
Hiring additional school personnel, such as nurses and custodial staff, to keep schools safe and healthy.
Providing for social distancing and safety protocols on buses.
Funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and devices for students without connectivity for remote learning and supporting educators in the effective use of technology; and
Additional uses as allowed in the statute.”

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