Preparing for the New Normal with CARES
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. It provided over $2 trillion in economic relief for American workers and their families, small businesses, as well as state, local and tribal governments, and it was aimed at preserving jobs. Also, it contained $30.75 billion in the Education Stabilization Fund for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund resulting in the United States Department of Education awarding the state of Mississippi $13.5 million in emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had and continues to have on all elementary and secondary schools.
Quitman School District Federal Programs director Dr. Minnie Dace explains, “Of the $13.5 million that went to elementary and secondary schools in the state of Mississippi, each school district will get about 75% of what their FY20 Title I funds are. For our school district that means we will receive about $685,000 to be used for pandemic relief.”
What Dr. Dace and administrators across the state have been studying are those activities allowable under the ESSER funding. They are as follows:
*Any activity under ESEA, IDEA, the Adult Education and Famiy Literacy Act, Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, or McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
*Coordination of preparedness and response efforts of the LEA with State, local, tribal and territorial public health departments, and other relevant agencies to improve responses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.
*Provide principals and school leaders with resources to address the needs of the school.
*Activities to address the unique needs of low-income students, children with disabilities, ELs, racial and ethnic minorities, homeless students, foster care youth (including outreach and service delivery)
*Develop and implement procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of LEAs
*Training and PD for staff on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases
*Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities
*Planning for and coordinating long-term closures, including providing meals, technology for online learning to all students, carrying out requirements under IDEA, and ensuring other educational services can continue
*Purchasing of educational technology (hardware, software, connectivity) that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and classroom instructors including low-income students and students with disabilities
*Providing mental health services and supports
*Planning and implementing summer learning and supplemental afterschool programs (addressing needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, ELS, Migrants, Homeless students and Foster Care students)
*Other activities necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services and continuing to employ existing staff
Dace and her peers have been focused on how they can best use the funding for the students of Quitman School District. She says with confidence, “We will be using these one-time funds on technology and connectivity. First, we will finish a complete one-to-one (student to computer ratio) with Google Chromebooks. Second, we will look at connectivity and purchase some MiFi hotspots for students. In case one or more of the schools are required to close due to a COVID-19 breakout, students will be able to access the internet through a MiFi or from a router on one of our buses parked at a volunteer fire department in Clarke County or some area within/close to their community. We want to make sure a child who lives out in Theadville or Beaver Dam doesn’t have to come to town to get their homework done. The money will also help us purchase a three to five year subscription of educational software so our high school students can work on all of their major subjects and some electives from home. All districts receiving CARES funds must offer summer remediation or enrichment. We’ll use some of the ESSER funds to pay for a portion of summer school during the last three weeks of July. The application deadline is July 10th. We’ve been preparing this information for the past couple of months and have finally narrowed it down within the last couple of weeks.”