The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) was passed March 10, 2021 and authorized by President Joseph Biden. The act provides just over $170.3 billion to education, making this the federal government’s largest ever single investment in schools. Of the $170.3 billion allocation, $122.8 billion was designated as ESSER III funds.
Consistent with all ESSER grants, the ESSER III funds are first allocated to the GADOE and then sub-granted to Henry County Schools. The State of Georgia received $4.3 billion of funding. The sub-grant to Henry County Schools totaled $53.4 million, with 2/3 of the grant ($34.7 million) available for allocation requests as of June 2021.
Henry County Schools designed a multi-pronged strategy to identify needs and uses for the ESSER III funds as follows:
Phase 1 – FY22 Budget Priority Synchronization: The announcement of the ARPA funds occurred during the FY22 Budget Development Cycle. In consideration of the community-inspired strategic action plan and additional forums capturing school leader, parent, and board member inputs, the Henry County Schools’ team prioritized $24.9 million of funding to support mental health & wellness personnel, learning recovery and learning acceleration resources, and improvements to elementary gym ventilation. In April 2021, an overview of the ESSER III planning strategy and early identification of needs was presented to the Board.
Phase 2 – Comprehensive Plan Development: The district leadership organized and led a cross-divisional team to identify innovative programs and opportunities to support student learning and wellness. In May 2021, a survey was launched to gather the voices of teachers, principals, and other staff in planning for the remaining 9.8 million of the first allocation of funding. The Henry County Board of Education received a public report of the comprehensive budgetary plan for the first allocation ($34.7 million) of ESSER III funds during the August meeting and endorsed the budgetary plan submitted to GADOE for approval. The plan was approved by GADOE on August 25, 2021 and included investments:
- to support student wellness and mental health;
- to address interrupted learning and support learning acceleration needs;
- to facilitate the students’ return to campus transition or provide a remote learning option via IMPACT; and
- to enhance the learning environment through training, incentives, and facility upgrades.
As of March 31, 2021, Henry County Schools has expended $9.3 million of the first allocation of ESSER III as follows:
Period Amount Use of Funds summary FY22: 7/1/21 – 3/31/21
(1st - 3rd Quarters)
Expenditures include: (1) facility enhancement costs; (2) personnel for learning acceleration and student support; (3) facility costs for air quality projects; (4) staff vaccination incentives; (5) student support for college and career readiness; and (6) funding to schools to support learning activities to accelerate learning for students. Funds Remaining $25,321,894 Note: Funds remaining calculation pertains to the first allocation of $34.7 million with budgetary approval from GADOE.
Henry County Schools is in process of planning for the remaining allocation of ESSER III funds, which will be subject to GADOE review and approval. In support of planning efforts, a survey was launched November 29, 2021 to identify community-inspired investment opportunities around:
- School & Classroom Spaces
- Student Safety & Personal Health
- Return to Campus Transition & IMPACT Virtual
- Interrupted Learning & Learning Acceleration
The survey closed December 31, 2021 and had responses from over 330+ families and community members. Currently, the Henry County Schools’ team is reviewing the survey information to inform planning for the remaining allocation of ESSER funds. The outcome of planning for the second allocation will be presented publically when available.
The next website update of progress on ESSER III budgeting, expenditures, or revisions to programmatic objectives will be provided in August 2022.