TUPELO • The second round of COVID-19 relief funding for Northeast Mississippi’s K-12 schools is around four times larger than the first, with local schools receiving millions of dollars in aid.
Mississippi will receive about $724 million in Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act enacted in December, compared to $169 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted last March.
The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) can use up to 10% of the total allocation, $72 million. The rest will go to schools.
Mississippi’s K-12 schools were allocated a total of $652 million. Each district was notified by the MDE of their total allocation amount on Feb. 5.
The Tupelo Public School District will receive $6.672 million.
“Any time you’re able to secure more funds, that’s a good thing, so that you can provide a lot more resources and services,” Corlis Curry, TPSD director of federal programs, said. “With intentional planning, I think this could be a big push in increasing student achievement.”
In the coming weeks, Tupelo’s assistant superintendents will meet with principals to evaluate needs at a building level and compose a list that will be used to decide where and how the money will be used.
Curry plans to present a report in March to the TPSD Board of Trustees that will provide an overview of the basics of the ESSER II funds and how the district would like to spend the money.
The Lee County School District will receive $4.2 million.
Michael Martin, LCSD’s business manager, said there’s a national emphasis on helping students make up for missed educational opportunities during the pandemic. The federal funds should help address this issue.
“There shouldn’t be anything that we need to do that we’re not able to do as far as helping students catch up from the learning loss they may have experienced,” Martin said.
Chris Conwill, LCSD’s federal programs director, said the thoughts of parents, teachers and administrators will be taken into consideration as the district decides how to spend the funds.
Besides gathering information on how schools would like to see the funds used, a survey will be sent to every stakeholder in the district seeking feedback. LCSD administrators will take this feedback under consideration as they make spending decisions.
Just like the initial CARES Act ESSER funds, the second round of money can be used for pre-award costs dating back to March 13, 2020, when the national emergency was declared.
Uses for the funds are largely the same as they were for the first round. They include purchasing sanitation and cleaning supplies, training focused on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases, planning for and coordinating during long-term closures, purchasing educational technology and providing mental health services and support.
The U.S. Department of Education added three new uses for the funds in their official guidance: addressing learning loss among students; inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement and upgrade projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities; and school facility repairs and improvements to enable schools to reduce the risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards.
Each district will submit an application to MDE outlining how they intend to use the funds. Once approved, they will be able to spend the money. The funds must be obligated for use by school districts by Sept. 30, 2023.