Butler County school districts will receive a total of $27.4 million from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
The U.S. Department of Education is allocating $122 billion to school districts throughout the nation. The money is meant to be used for districts to combat “impacts of COVID-19 on pre-K through 12 education,” according to the Department of Education.
The money has to be used by September 2024, and 20% of the money allocated to each district is to be used to address student learning loss caused by the pandemic, according to the Department of Education.
In Butler County, Butler Area School District received the largest amount of funding at $11.84 million. Mars Area School District received the least at $1,099,019.
Brian White, superintendent of the Butler district, said the money is allocated based on a Title 1 formula that evaluates how many students in poverty live in a school district.
Because these students normally face more challenges than students not in poverty, districts with a larger poverty population received more funding, he said.
“Students in poverty typically have a higher difficulty reaching academic potential than students not in poverty,” White said.
The money received by Butler area schools will still be used to help all students, White said, through the creation of summer programs to assist students who may have fallen behind in education over the past year.
“We'll spend it in a manner that helps stabilize the school district in the long term,” White said. “I think it's going to help all students because there has been learning loss across the board.”
Several county superintendents said safely opening schools last fall also built up a lot of expenses that can be offset by the emergency relief funds. Tracy Vitale, superintendent of Seneca Valley School District, said this is the case in her district, and these funds will help with those costs and more.
“We are incredibly grateful for the additional financial support offered through the ARP ESSER Fund,” Vitale said. “We also anticipate that these funds will assist with more immediate mitigation projects during this time of COVID-19, and be assigned to future costs associated with opening in the 2021-22 school year.”
Tom Samosky, superintendent of Moniteau School District, said that after the last two rounds of emergency federal funding helped the district adapt schools to COVID-19 guidelines and improve technology access among students and faculty, this round is planned to be used on remedial efforts to help students who suffered the most throughout the pandemic.
“We're looking at creating after-school programs or summer school sessions to address that learning gap,” Samosky said. “We also recognize the need to provide more emotional support for the kids that need it now after going through this difficult year.”
The first round of funding was vital to the district's plan to continue education through the pandemic, Samosky said.
Throughout last year, the district purchased laptops for each individual student and improved Wi-Fi access and connectivity infrastructure throughout the area with the use of Wi-Fi devices, which Samosky said was all done with COVID-19 relief money.