How Schools Must Spend Their ARP ESSER Funds
A year after the WHO declared the coronavirus a worldwide pandemic, the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) fund was enacted.
At $122 billion, the ARP ESSER represents the largest investment in American public education.
The U.S. Department of Education dictates that 90% of that funding must be funneled through the States to its school districts or local education agencies (LEAs), including publicly-funded charter schools.
“This historic legislation not only provides the resource to help every school building put in place the effective measures needed to keep students and educators safe,” says Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association (NEA). “It also makes extraordinary investments that will lift countless children and families out of poverty and works to address the immense inequities that have systematically affected the most vulnerable students and communities of color.”
After Funding: What K-12 Schools Need to Do
Ask any grant-proposal committee or organizational chief financial officer. Large or small, private or public, state or federal, all funding carries a list of deadlines, usage requirements and reporting mandates. The ARP ESSER monies come with a set of federally-set and clearly defined uses, allocations, deadlines and, of course, strict grant-reporting processes.
Also, school systems (including charter schools) have three hard deadlines, as overseen by the states:
- Publicizing the plan: Within 30 days of receipt of funding, a school system or LEA must publicize on its website that system’s plan for the safe return of in-person instruction and continuity of learning services. The published plan must be based on stakeholder and public input from groups such as parents, administrators, staff unions, tribes and more.
- When to use the funds: Schools must have used their allocated funding by September 30, 2023.
- Needed plan updates: Each district is required to review and, if needed, revise its plan every six months, at minimum. Again, revision processes will seek and incorporate public and stakeholder input.
How K-12 Schools Can Use their ARP ESSER Funds
Broadly speaking, the allocated funds will allow public schools to achieve three needed outcomes:
- Safely re-open for in-person learning.
- Address students’ academic, social and emotional needs and pandemic-related deficits, particularly for those among underrepresented student subgroups.
- Plan and work to follow all CDC guidelines in order to protect the health and safety of all K-12 students, teachers, administrative and other staff.
According to the NEA’s downloadable fact sheet, the list of permitted expenditures or school-improvements ranges from providing evidence-based mental health services and supports for students impacted by COVID school closures; to purchasing educational technology and connectivity; to addressing educational deficits from educational inequities and lost learning time; to repairing and improving schools to reduce risk of virus transmission.
Also, given the state oversight and reporting requirements, schools will need to collect, aggregate and report highly accurate and reliable data sets on all aspects of their funded and sustained initiatives.
Making School Classrooms Safer: Protecting K-12 Students from COVID and Other Infections
During the 2021/2022 school year, as more or most schools return to 100% in-classroom learning, they will need to reliably and efficiently screen large volumes of students for potential fever as an indicator of symptomatic or non-symptomatic COVID infections.
However, the traditional, infrared or non-contact temperature thermometers (like those seen in airports, shopping centers or beauty salons) only measure our surface temperature, and that skin-temperature check can yield inaccurate or false temperature readings. For example, in our facial area alone, there may be a four-point temperature variance between our foreheads and our cheeks. Also, the reading may fluctuate based on where the screening stations are located. A highly air-conditioned hallway, for example, may yield a different student temperature screen from a playground, sports field or school bus.
Inaccurate temperature readings will controvert the school’s infection-control and their capacity to follow CDC guidelines. Equally, an unreliable screening data will undermine the accuracy and reliability of the school’s required data reportage.
FeverWarn’s™ OPX, highly portable devices can measure core body temperature in environments whose ambient temperatures range from 40-105°F, and provide an accurate read within 1.5 seconds—even on a wintertime sports field or in a heated indoor classroom or gymnasium. In the event of a positive screen, FeverWarn devices can record and report COVID-positive temperature checks via text or email alerts to designated school personnel, while also providing real-time 100% HIPAA-compliant data.
Beyond September 2021: Planning for Sustainable Disease Control
The ARP ESSER-related requirements are both reactive and strategic or future-facing. While all funds must be used to address pandemic-created needs, schools are also required to enhance their preparedness for future long-term closures and related disease-response protocols.
Read more about FeverWarn’s Non-Contact Temperature Scanner for Schools and Visit the FeverWarn website to learn how our affordable, highly accurate and portable temperature screening devices can protect your entire (students and staff) school population.
Also, before the start of the 2021/2022 school year, our company will issue a second disease-protection device, ViraWarn™. ViraWarn is a plug-in sensor that can be plugged into an electric socket or USB power cable to instantly detect the presence of an airborne virus (including influenza or COVID-19) within a classroom, gymnasium, staff room or other enclosed school space—thereby providing schools with a highly sustainable, long-term approach to infection control.