The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) was passed March 10, 2021 and authorized by President Joseph Biden. The act provided just over $170.3 billion to education, making it the federal government’s largest single investment in schools in history. Of the $170.3 billion allocation, $122.8 billion was designated as ESSER III funds. The ARPA legislation requires that a minimum of 20% of funds are utilized to “address learning loss by implementing evidence‐based interventions (e.g., summer learning, extended day/school year programs) to respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs”.
Consistent with all ESSER grants, the ESSER III funds were 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.
The comprehensive budgetary planning process continued and community voice was obtained. 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. The Henry County Schools’ team reviewed the survey results and utilized the insights to plan for the remaining 1/3 of ESSER III funds. The Comprehensive ARPA Plan was presented to the Henry County Board of Education on June 13, 2022 for endorsement and the revised plan was formerly approved by GADOE on August 26, 2022.
In accordance with planning, Henry County Schools launched use of the ESSER III funds authorized by ARPA during fiscal year 2022. As of September 30, 2022, Henry County Schools has expended $18.6 million of the ESSER III allocation as follows:
Period Amount Use of Funds summary FY22: 7/1/21 – 6/30/22
Expenditures include: (1) salaries for quarantine bridge teachers/substitutes and teacher aides supporting return to school transitions; (2) school-designed acceleration/intervention strategies and associated professional development; (3) vaccination supplements; (4) Summer 2022 learning; (5) reading and writing resources; (6) salaries for mental health and wellness and data personnel; and (7) systems supporting accountability and student success monitoring.
FY23: 7/1/21 – 9/30/22 (1st quarter)
Expenditures include: (1) Summer 2022 learning, recovery, and afterschool; (2) reading and writing resources; (3) salaries for mental health and wellness and data personnel; (4) systems supporting accountability and student success monitoring; and (5) indirect charges.
Total Expended $18,570,743 Funds Remaining $34,858,938
Remaining funds are available to cover the outlined objectives through September 30, 2024. The next website update of progress on ESSER II expenditures or revisions to programmatic objectives will be provided in February 2023.