Emergency COVID-19 Funds
The federal government has provided emergency funds to school districts across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Called Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER), Richland School District received $7.5 million from the federal government in two installments and is expected to receive an additional $13.6 million from 2022 to 2024 to mitigate the ongoing impacts of the pandemic.
The federal government initially provided $1.5 million to the district in its first round of emergency funding aimed at easing the expense districts faced from the pandemic. The district spent this full amount and an additional $200,000 of district funds on the following needs:
Instructional Materials & Support ($890,000): Our schools had never had to support every student in a fully remote learning model. While the district was better positioned than others around the state thanks to our community’s support of our 1:1 Technology Initiative, more resources were needed to support all students learning at home.
Where before students could use collective materials and supplies in their classroom, now students needed to have individual supplies. Roughly $476,000 was spent on providing everything from markers and crayons for the youngest learners to additional textbooks, trade books and leveled texts. The district made a commitment to ensure all students had the supplies and equipment necessary to fully engage in at-home learning.
Remote learning was just as new to most instructional staff as to students. The district spent $44,700 to provide training and other resources such supplemental curricula to teachers to help them transition to remote teaching and engage students
Last but not least, technology was absolutely critical and included more than just ensuring every student had a digital device. Roughly $357,000 has gone toward:
- Mobile hotspots for students without reliable Internet access
- Additional devices so our youngest learners could use them at home
- New audio-visual equipment to better help teachers work simultaneously with students learning remotely and in-person
Building Safety ($840,000): Much of this—$319,000—has been for personal protective equipment, or PPE, for staff. That includes face masks (disposable and reusable), plastic face shields, gloves, and more extensive materials needed by those working in more at-risk conditions such as rooms for students who show COVID-like symptoms or those working in specific special education programs.
Lastly, at the suggestion of school staff, the district brought in health and safety consultants from NV5/Dade Moeller to conduct walkthroughs of schools prior to each reopening to ensure procedures and materials were in place before students returned.
The federal government’s second round of emergency funding in response to COVID-19 to the district was for more than $6 million. In addition to covering ongoing costs to operate schools in light of COVID-19 precautions and requirements, this additional funding was also earmarked to to provide specific outreach and support for students to address issues such as accessibility to high-quality learning.
|Richland Virtual school & Continued Distance Learning Staffing||$1.7 million||
Now called Pacific Crest Online Academy, this fully online school offering teacher-directed instruction was developed to serve students and families seeking a permanent remote learning option. Additionally, as the district began transitioning to in-person instruction in September 2020, families and students not yet ready to return to in-person learning were able to enroll in Continued Distance Learning, a temporary remote learning option, until ready to return to in-person learning. ESSER II funds paid for the certificated and support staff to support these learning options.
|Support for providing Hybrid Learning||$1.7 million||
The district began transitioning to in-person instruction in September 2020, with students attending school in-person part of the week and learning remotely the other part. ESSER II funds went toward supporting staff, both in professional development and time spent engaging students in both those formats.
|Learning Materials & Resources For Remote, In-Person & Summer Learning||$791,215||
ESSER II funds were used to pay for materials such as workbooks, art supplies and other supplies that were distributed to students and families for remote learning activities as well online programs to help students engage in learning. Once in-person learning began, the district also purchased instructional materials necessary for COVID-19 mitigation, such as instrument covers and specialized face coverings for music courses. ESSER II funds also paid for materials used by students and staff during the district’s 2021 expanded summer learning programs.
|Sanitization, PPe, Facility Modifications||$736,852||
Sanitization supplies; personal protective equipment such as masks, face shields and gloves; HVAC modifications to improve air filtration systems in all schools, mitigation materials for schools during in-person learning and services from safety consultant NV5.
|Indirect Logistical Support||$614,148||
Indirect expenses associated with all other efforts paid for by ESSER II funds, such as additional IT staffing costs to support student and staff technology needs, additional operational costs for schools during summer school, communications support, rental costs for storage facilities and more.
Additional technology needed to support remote and hybrid learning, such as Polycams; replacement of malfunctioning/damaged student devices and hardware and additional mobile hotspots for students.
The federal government has provided a third installment of $13.6 million in ESSER funding help cover ongoing costs to operate schools in light of COVID-19 precautions and requirements. This funding was also provided to help mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on students, from learning loss to mental health, over the next three years. Based on a review of numerous student performance assessment tools, behavioral health screenings, input from parent-teacher conferences, the district survey responses on the return to in-person learning and other data points, district leaders put together the following proposals for these emergency funds.
|Continuity Of Operations||$5.7 million||
Students are best served when they and their families can maintain relationships with the staff they have come to trust and rely upon. Additionally, the district strives to create the best circumstances to support those relationships through keeping class sizes small and supporting the unique staffing needs of each school. ESSER funds would be used to retain high quality staff at established levels across the district to limit disruptions to student experiences and ensure they get the most out of each day at school.
|Mental Health Assistance Team (MHAT)||$2.75 million||
The district established the Mental Health Assistance Team (MHAT) in fall of 2020 and has launched initial efforts to establish a comprehensive plan that includes Threat Assessment, Suicide Prevention, Mental Health/Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), Trauma, Student Behavior, and School Climate. ESSER funds would be used to expand those efforts, including staffing costs (coordinator and social workers), crisis response plan revisions, district level flight team membership and training, district level screening team membership and training, building level screening team membership and training, social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum, and SEL professional development for staff.
|Special Education Extended School Year, Recovery & Progress Monitoring||$811,307||
Students receiving special education services have unique disabilities which provide challenges to their academic progress. As such, the pandemic has resulted in significant learning loss for many students which will have a lasting effect.
Continuation of the expanded summer learning opportunities provided by the district in 2021 to address learning loss and strengthen student connections to school. Similar opportunities would be offered over the next three years using ESSER III funding, with district and school leaders making necessary modifications to meet student needs indicated by families.
|HVAC Replacement & Upgrades||$575,000||
District operations staff would use ESSER III funding to continue to assess, improve and maintain school HVAC systems in line with the higher air filtration standards required to mitigate for COVID-19.
|Special Education Support For Pacific Crest Online Academy||$270,000||
Approximately 30 students enrolled in Pacific Crest Online Academy, the district’s fully online school, are identified as needing special education services. Additionally, the number of students that have not been identified that could potentially need services is also growing daily. Presence Learning, a contractor that has provide online itinerant staff addressing special education needs would meet the necessary support of Pacific Crest students.
|Building-Level Learning Loss Programs||$150,000||
As buildings move into a three-year recovery effort to identify and close academic achievement gaps, individual student/building needs will arise. This funding aligns with the recommendations from nationally-recognized education experts noting the importance of having “seed money” to support individual building requests to support outside-the-box efforts to support student learning. COVID-19 recovery will require staff to think innovatively in providing opportunities for students to close learning gaps. This might include extended day and extended year programs over the course of the year. Setting aside funding and communicating the opportunity will inspire principals to be innovative in their approach to meeting student needs.