ESSER Funds Explained

ESSER Funds Explained
Posted on 12/01/2021
This is the image for the news article titled ESSER Funds ExplainedSchools across the country have faced many challenges over the past 20 months, and Rolla 31 is no exception. In an effort to relieve some of the financial burden created by COVID-19 and related circumstances, the federal government created a series of funds designated to directly impact schools. These dollars have been received in two phases thus far, with a third phase on the horizon. The first two allocations, known as ESSER I ($791K) and ESSER II ($3.8 million), were received in late 2020 after regular funding had been withheld at the state level. Those funds were initially used to pay teachers’ salaries here at Rolla 31. The state released the previously withheld budget dollars which left the district with a fund balance that will be used to offset increased costs connected to the pandemic. In June of 2021, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education submitted their application to receive Missouri’s allocation for the American Rescue Plan; Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief state plan (ARP ESSER, or more commonly referred to as ESSER III). According to DESE, Missouri’s allocation totals $1.96 billion, 90 percent of which will be distributed to local education agencies to spend on a wide range of allowable uses in response to COVID-19.

By complying with the federal requirement to produce and publish a Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan (SRCSP), the Rolla 31 school district has been slated to receive $8.5 million as part of the third phase, or ESSER III, ARP funds. In order to determine the best use of these funds for our students, staff, and facilities, we formed a committee made up of parents, staff, community members, and board of education members. The committee reviewed the specific uses for portions of the funding and determined the most urgent needs throughout the district. An initial budget was formed and presented to DESE to include $1.7 million (20%) dedicated to addressing student learning needs that have been amplified from March of 2020 to date. The remaining $6.8 million will be used to bolster virtual instruction, HVAC upgrades at RMS, RHS & RTI to improve air quality and flow, transportation PPE supplies, and certificated salaries. This budget will continue to evolve based on student needs as we continue to face challenges and budget constraints related to the pandemic. 

Our budget and plan have been approved by DESE and we are currently awaiting further guidance, as the state legislature has not yet appropriated these funds. We are hopeful to have more information on the allocation timeline very soon, as these funds must be expended by September of 2024. The latest news release from DESE indicates legislators are developing a plan to appropriate the funds prior to a March 24, 2022 deadline.

We will keep you informed of this process as we move forward. As always, the latest Rolla 31 news can be found on our website at www.rolla31.org under What’s New. We appreciate your continued support as we plan for the future of Rolla 31 and work to do what’s best for our students every day.
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