Montana OPI encourages school districts to use federal COVID relief money

Greg Stevens

HELENA — The federal govt has established apart hundreds of millions of bucks for Montana university districts, to assist address the impacts COVID has experienced on learners. Now, condition education and learning leaders are encouraging districts to get creative with how they use the funds.

Congress approved three individual rounds of Elementary and Secondary College Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funding – totaling $189.5 billion nationwide and about $600 million for Montana. On Tuesday, Superintendent of Community Instruction Elsie Arntzen organized a panel dialogue at the Montana Point out Capitol, showcasing what districts close to the point out have finished with their share of the funding.

“Today’s party was striving to promote the point that the ESSER cash are incredibly flexible, and demonstrating that various districts are, in actuality, working with those resources quite in a different way,” reported Wendi Fawns, of the Montana Place of work of General public Instruction.

Fawns is OPI’s director for ESSER and the connected application EANS, which supports non-community educational facilities. She and her crew have labored with districts to locate methods to use the funding to deal with regional demands whilst assembly the requirements of the federal plans.

The most significant pot of ESSER funds came from the American Rescue Strategy Act – $382 million. Districts have until September 2024 to use that income. So considerably, they’ve used just in excess of $84 million – about 22%.

Fawns said a great deal of the initially spherical of ESSER funding went toward technologies and wellbeing and security precautions. Due to the fact then, she reported districts have commonly invested in experienced progress and educational spots like literacy and math, as very well as tying lecturers with social and psychological discovering.

“I imagine which is truly what the story is, is how do we use these money in a way to do almost everything that we normally just explained about attempting to maintain colleges open up?” reported Stephen Schreibeis, superintendent of Glendive Community Educational institutions. “How do we recover, and then how do we spend in that educational restoration?”

Schreibeis was a person of quite a few directors who spoke during Tuesday’s dialogue. Most said they’d employed some of their ESSER cash for the similar sorts of applications, but they also shared additional distinct tips they’ve pursued.

Goal Vary Faculty District, in the vicinity of Missoula, made use of some of the dollars for an improved playground that can also be applied as an outdoor discovering space, especially for social and psychological advancement. Eureka Public Educational institutions acquired guidance machines for a new course on “tiny home” building, aimed at achieving college students who had been struggling during and just after the pandemic. The Fergus County superintendent of educational facilities reported, in the rural educational facilities she oversees, it was a obstacle to totally cleanse and sanitize carpet when overall health concerns arose, so they employed ESSER income to install new laminate flooring.

In Glendive, Schreibeis claimed they applied some ESSER funds to put in a short-term drinking water technique at one particular of their universities soon after it was found to have a h2o quality concern. He said that permitted them to keep in the constructing as a substitute of returning to distant discovering – which he claimed would have manufactured it more durable to deal with ongoing learning decline because the pandemic.

“There are districts who know really obviously what they want to expend the money on, and then some event will happen that alterations all that,” reported Fawns. “So the dialogue then is, ‘Can we alter the use of money and what do we do heading forward?’”

Fawns reported just one of OPI’s ambitions is to encourage districts to develop partnerships with companies in their neighborhood, so they can make ESSER pounds go farther.

“When ESSER funds can be utilized to help establish capacity among, say, a Rotary Club or a 4-H agent, with a regional school district, that makes the programming work a lot additional sustainable, simply because you have multiple sources of funding coming in,” she said.

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