Area Schools to Receive Relief Funds

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announced on Monday that almost $145million in federal aid is available to school districts in Oklahoma. The funds, provided in the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, are Oklahoma’s share of $13billion allocated to the Elementary and Secondary School Relief (ESSER) Fund when the CARES Act was established in March of this year.

The amount of funds allocated to districts is dependent upon their Title 1 funds for the current fiscal year. That funding is based on the percentage of a district’s students who are categorized as low-income.

“Like schools across the nation, Oklahoma educators are considering the transition to next school year and preparing for various options that may be brought by the pandemic,” Hofmeister said. “Recognizing the significant learning loss that has resulted from the pandemic, it will be important that districts leverage their ESSR allocations to support students in regaining lost academic ground. We are grateful to Oklahoma’s congressional delegation for their support of the CARES Act.”

Area school districts allocations are: Marlow $166,964.28; Central High $42,078.06; Bray-Doyle $43,880.01; Duncan $933,410.33; Comanche $163,989.89; Velma-Alma $51,403.46; Empire $76,898.80.

Hofmeister’s announcement included information regarding the 12 categories under which districts may draw funds:

• Funding activities authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, including the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Perkins Act or subtitle B of Title VII of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act;
• Coordinating preparedness and response efforts with state, local, tribal and territorial health departments to prevent and prepare a response to the coronavirus;

• Providing principals and other school leaders the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools;
• Funding any activity that addresses the delivery of services to at-risk and minority students;
• Developing and implementing procedures to improve school preparedness and response efforts;
• Training and offering professional development for staff on sanitation and minimizing the spread of disease;
• Purchasing cleaning supplies;

• Planning for and coordinating services during long-term closures including providing meals, technology for online learning, guidance for carrying out IDEA services, etc.
• Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software and connectivity) to conduct online learning for students served by the LEA (local education agency). This may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment for students with disabilities;
• Providing mental health services and supports;
• Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental after-school programs during the summer months and providing continued services to at-risk and minority students; and
• Funding other activities necessary to maintain the operation and continuity of services in LEAs and continuing to employ the LEA’s existing staff.
Hofmeister also said that districts would have the opportunity to receive additional funds via grants from the Oklahoma State Department of Education by committing to use at least 30% of their ESSER funds in at least two of several categories that include expanding connectivity for distance learning and providing mental health supports for students.

“We must do everything in our power to ensure that every home in Oklahoma is fully connected so each of our students has the opportunity for academic success in a 21st-century context. That means full connectivity and a device that can accommodate rigorous distance education,” said Hofmeister. “COVID-19 has pulled the curtain back on the digital divide. With an increasing number of schools moving to blended learning environments, the time is now to close this divide so that every student can be positioned for success regardless of whether school takes place inside a building or beyond the schoolhouse walls through digital delivery of content and instruction.”