Summit School District was able to put a renewed focus on social-emotional learning, support for English language learners, and mental health resources thanks to nearly $2.6 million in federal COVID-19 relief. 19.
Last year, the federal government sent two separate grants to public schools through the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund and the US Bailout Act, totaling $176.3 billion. for schools nationwide, according to the US Office of Elementary & Secondary Education.
The money is in addition to the $30.75 billion originally sent to school districts in March 2020 to help pay for COVID-19 mitigation efforts, such as new air filters, masks and hand sanitizer. . The Summit School District received $226,382 of this allocation, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
While the first round of relief funds was a response to an emergency, last year’s grants allowed districts to look to the future. Although Summit’s share is only a small fraction of what the federal government has set aside, the money has been able to do a lot, district officials said.
When planning to spend the funds, district leaders met with principals to get an idea of student needs, said Mary Kay Dore, director of studies.
One of the grants required that at least 20% of the funds be used to address learning loss.
Middle and high school principals were convinced that the money should be used to support English language learners. Thus, $180,940 has been reserved in the 2021-2022 budget to hire two new employees who help support these students. The district hired these employees in January and they worked to provide direct support to students learning English throughout the school day.
“Targeting those students who are learning a second language is really a big part where they felt they might need some extra support,” Dore said.
The district has also budgeted $153,333 for the elementary program under the learning loss component. This money helped primary school teachers ensure they met the new curriculum standards.
Most of the remaining money went to new employees. The district has budgeted nearly $1 million for new full-time positions, including a mental/social-emotional health learning coordinator, three distance teachers and a coordinator, a physical health coordinator and a Bilingual Community Liaison Officer for the 2021-22 school year.
The district found it would need additional support as students navigate the return to in-person learning. The district’s new social-emotional wellness coordinator, in particular, has been able to help teachers and students manage the impacts of the pandemic.
“(The) social-emotional well-being coordinator has really been able to work with the schools on this social-emotional development and mental health support to make sure we’re increasing that support,” Dore said.
Much of the remaining funds were used to further support students in their return to school, including new software for distance learning, staff professional development and teacher funding for summer programs. .
The district still has $832,207 of federal funds to budget for the upcoming school year. The district plans to continue directing those funds toward full-time positions, said finance director Kara Drake.
“We hope to retain the positions that were added with ESSER funds for another year and continue the work these positions have provided for the district and our students,” she said.
Although the money is secured for next year, the district can only use it until September 2023. Drake refers to this date as a “funding cliff”, which will require the district to find the money elsewhere or to give up these positions. .
Drake said the district is still planning how it will address the funding cliff, but she and Dore hope state and federal lawmakers will consider renewing the grants after the September 2023 deadline.
“I think all of us collectively in public education are hoping that the state and the federal government see that this money that they’ve given us to help, especially with COVID, has done some really good things,” Dore said. . “We were able to support things that we hadn’t been able to do in the past. Maybe they will see, especially at the state level, how underfunded we are.