Deadline Approaching: What K-12 Schools Need to Know Now About ESSER Funds
Don’t miss the deadline to obligate your free ESSER funds by September 30, 2023! Here’s everything you need to know to make the most of this opportunity for your K-12 school.
In 2020, the federal government responded to the challenges posed by the pandemic by establishing the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund through the CARES Act. This fund provided $13 billion of emergency relief to U.S. school districts during the pandemic.
Later that year, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act further extended support with an additional $54 billion allocation, known as the ESSER II fund.
Recognizing the continued need to aid schools, the government took a significant step forward in 2021. Through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, they provided $122 billion in ARP ESSER funds, sometimes referred to as ESSER III funds.
Altogether, the government allocated $189 billion in financial relief for schools. Since then, K-12 school leaders across the country have used these funds to improve their schools—from classroom furniture to building ventilation—to create healthy, safe environments for students and staff.
Below, we share critical points you need to know to take advantage of this government funding for your school. Most critically, take note of the deadline to obligate the funds by September 30, 2023.
What Funds Are Available To Me?
To ensure you take advantage of your available ESSER II funds, find your state’s allocation plan and your school’s available funds via your state’s Department of Education website. For direct assistance on this, we encourage you to contact your state education authority (SEA).
Armed with the knowledge of how much funds are available to your school or district, you can collaborate with school leaders and plan how to take advantage of your free funding before it's too late.
What Can I Use These Funds For?
Schools can allocate ESSER funds for a variety of allowable activities that fall under five specific aims:
- Health and safety measures: Schools can implement health and safety changes to protect students and staff from viral diseases or support other student health needs. This might include purchasing sanitation supplies, procuring cleaning services, and improving ventilation systems.
- Technology and connectivity: Schools can make purchases that will improve interactions between students and teachers and help ensure all students have equitable access to technology for hybrid learning.
- Educational resources and support: Schools can purchase additional learning materials, resources, and tools to improve their academic programs, after-school activities, and address learning loss.
- Professional development: Schools can invest in training and development for educators to adapt to new teaching methods, technologies, and safety protocols.
- Social and emotional support: Schools can support the mental health and well-being of students and staff alike through programs, counselors, and devoted resources for mental health services.
How Can I Use These Funds To Improve My School?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Upgrade to flexible classroom furniture, which can be reconfigured to reduce the risk of virus transmission if needed. Flexible classroom layouts with mobile furniture also support diverse student learning styles and promote movement and collaboration.
- Create convertible spaces. Stackable and nesting furniture can help schools use classrooms, lunchrooms, and media centers for different activities during the day and after school to address learning loss or provide students with extra support.
- Expand storage. Extra storage helps keep cleaning and safety supplies organized and easy to reach when needed. Storage upgrades also allow educators to keep student materials tidy, from laptops and extra chargers to craft supplies.
- Invest in integrated technology. The American Psychological Association recognizes how educators can leverage technology to inspire creativity, collaboration, and connection. Consider rethinking your classroom layout to better use technology or upgrading to tables, desks, and seating that have built-in power outlets.
- Create areas for rest and wellness. Interior design for schools can play a significant role in supporting student and staff mental health. You can use ESSER funds to create restful spaces where students and staff can decompress or to expand nurse’s rooms or counseling spaces to accommodate more students.
Make the Most of Your Federal Dollars
With the new school year right around the corner, consider how you can make the most of federal relief funds to give your students and staff the environments they deserve.
While schools can allocate ARP ESSER III funds through September 30, 2024, the deadline to obligate ESSER II funds is quickly coming up on September 30, 2023. Learn more about the process here.
Then, once your school has determined what funds are available, swiftly reach out to your dedicated KI specialist to request an expedited quote that you can submit to your SEA before your funds expire!
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