How USD 232 plans to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds on academic recovery

USD 232 in De Soto expects to receive roughly $6.2 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding. District leaders say they want to spend those funds on a wide range of

USD 232 in De Soto expects to receive roughly $6.2 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding.

District leaders say they want to spend those funds on a wide range of initiatives that feed into academic recovery for students impacted by the ongoing global pandemic.

In a presentation to the USD 232 Board of Education this week, Superintendent Frank Harwood said the school district plans to spend the funds on several key areas:

  • Summer learning and supplemental after-school programs
  • Addressing learning loss among students, including vulnerable populations
  • Mental health services and supports
  • Providing school leaders with resources to address individual school needs

Additionally, USD 232 may consider directing some portion of the funds toward its COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts — particularly to reimburse itself for contact tracing — as well as purchasing educational technology, such as software and connectivity.

Harwood said reimbursement for contact tracers is a lower priority. The district does plan to hire additional nurses who could be directed to handle contact tracing.

Meanwhile, the district already received some relief from Johnson County to cover the district’s expenses on providing connectivity for students doing remote learning — about $4,800 was spent on getting hot spots for students.

USD 232 has no plans to spend any funds on facility upgrades, such as those to improve air quality. Harwood said district facilities are already in good shape.

Interested in Shawnee Mission? Click here to see how the Shawnee Mission School District plans to spend its COVID-19 relief funds.

How the money will be spent

Most of USD 232’s funds will go toward mental health, direct student support, extended learning opportunities and supplemental materials to improve student learning and help staff. Above, students learning on site at Mill Creek Middle in October 2020. Photo courtesy USD 232. File photo.

Here are some of USD 232’s plans to spend its emergency relief for schools, in more detail:

  • Supplemental support (staffing)
    • Extended learning over the summer, including expansion of academic recovery efforts for students who weren’t making progress on learning goals
    • Direct student support for students who struggled during the pandemic
    • Mental health for students over the summer, as well as a possible additional social worker to lighten caseloads, particularly focused on general education students
    • Health services — possibly hire additional nurses and allow bandwidth for contact tracing efforts
    • Instructional support for both elementary and secondary schools
  • Supplemental materials
    • Simulation software — USD 232 already spent $9,000 for high school remote students to participate in labs
    • Curriculum — mostly phonics supplemental materials, particularly resources for elementary teachers on phonics
    • Professional development such as helping staff with assessment data
    • Connectivity

Harwood said this is “not an exhaustive list” because the district may add or remove items depending on the need.

The district could also have challenges filling positions to serve mental health needs because of a shortage in professionals.

How the relief program works

The roughly $6.2 million for USD 232 comes from the federal COVID-19 relief program, Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief. The funds are coming to USD 232 in three phases.

ESSER I

The first phase, ESSER I, was part of the original CARES Act.

USD 232 received $107,000 (or $15 per student) for its Title I allocation, and an additional $88,000 for special education.

Harwood said USD 232’s Title I allocation was significantly lower than the state average of $168 per student because it has much less poverty compared with other school districts in the state.

USD 232 must first spend that money and then apply for reimbursement.

Harwood said the approval process is intended to help school districts avoid spending any of its COVID relief funds on projects that a federal audit could find ineligible years down the road.

District leaders said USD 232 has spent very little on the ESSER I funds so far — an estimated $9,000.

USD 232 must spend or commit the rest of the ESSER I money by September 2022.

ESSER II

In ESSER II, out of the $333 million Kansas received, USD 232 is set to receive a total of $2.1 million, or $300 per student.

Harwood said the Kansas State Board of Education lifted all funding allocations to a minimum of $300 per student for each school district. Broken down, that means USD 232 received $468,000 for its Title I allocation as well as an additional $1.6 million.

Meanwhile, Harwood estimates USD 232 will receive about $130,000 for special education out of the $24 million statewide.

USD 232 must commit its ESSER II money by September 2023.

ESSER III

The exact amount USD 232 will receive for this third round of funding approved last month, ESSER III, is unconfirmed.

However, out of the $748 million that Kansas received, Harwood estimates that USD 232 will receive about $4 million, or $600 per student.

That $4 million is a combination of $1 million for the school district’s Title I allocation, combined with about $3 million in additional funds, as the state plans to raise the funding allocation for all school districts to at least $600 per student.

Special education funds are also still unconfirmed.

USD 232 must spend its ESSER III funds by September 2024.