Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund III Requirements

ESSER III Fund Requirements

Fairfax County School Board Approves $188 Million ESSER III Spending Plan

The Fairfax County School Board approved a $188.6 million spending plan for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) grant funds at its Board meeting on August 26. Read the press release

The funds will be used to address expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the safe reopening of schools and to sustain the safe operation of schools. The spending plan also outlines how the division will address the impact of COVID on students by addressing their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs.

Superintendent Introduction to ESSER 3 Spending Plan

New ESSER III Spending Plan Narrative

Fairfax County School Board Directs Superintendent to Submit ESSER III Plan

At its July 15 Board meeting, the Fairfax County School Board authorized Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand to develop and submit a formal plan to the state to access an allocation of $188.6 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) funding. Read the press release.

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund III Spending Plan

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has been awarded $188.6 million in ESSER III funds. This spending plan describes how the awarded funds will be used. 

What is the ESSER III grant?

The purpose of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III Fund is to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impacts of COVID-19 on the nation’s students by addressing students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs.

This grant provides schools with funding to address the impact COVID-19 has had on services to students during school building closures. It also provides funding to develop and implement plans for the return to normal school operations.

What is required?

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) must make available a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services.  FCPS will communicate this plan in emails to staff, parents and families, and the wider community in e-newsletters and on the Return to School webpages.  

In developing the ARP ESSER III Plan, the division must conduct consultation in the following ways:

  • With stakeholders, including: students; families; school and district administrators (including special education administrators); and teachers, principals, school leaders, other educators, school staff, and their unions; and
  • To the extent present in or served by the LEA: Tribes; civil rights organizations (including disability rights organizations); and stakeholders representing the interests of children with disabilities, English learners, children experiencing homelessness, children in foster care, migratory students, children who are incarcerated, and other underserved students; and
  • By seeking and taking into account public input.

Public Hearing

View the recording of the Fairfax County School Board Public Hearing that was held on Monday, June 7 at 6 p.m

School Board Work Session 

On July 13, 2021, the recommended ESSER III funding plan was presented at a School Board work session.

School Board Meeting

On July 15, the School Board authorize the Superintendent to develop and submit a formal plan to the State in order to fully access all Federal ESSER III Grant Funds. The Superintendent will present to the Board an advance copy of this official plan prior to the August 26th Business Meeting, and its submission to the State on September 1

Overview of the Process

The FCPS Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) funding allocation is $188.6 million for expenses related to the pandemic to be spent over multiple years.

The grant is intended to be used to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of COVID on students by addressing their academic, social, emotional, & mental health needs.

The ESSER III grant application required that FCPS seek public input and take that input into account when developing the spending plan.

FCPS sought public input via:

  • Targeted focus groups conducted on May 25, May 27 and June 10, 2021
  • A public hearing held on June 7, 2021
  • An online feedback form available through June 11, 2021

The spending plan that is being developed was based on extensive public engagement around the potential allocation of ESSER III funding plus the input of Leadership Team and school Board members.

  • More than 1,600 people participated in FCPS’ stakeholder engagement (online feedback form, public hearing, and focus groups)
  • 74% of the respondents are parents
  • 22% of the respondents are employees

Top Ten Priorities Identified Through Stakeholder Feedback

  • The top ten priorities from the stakeholder feedback shared a primary focus of direct student support. 
  • Stakeholder feedback referenced “academic needs” as the most frequently cited priority.
  • The Superintendent’s Recommendation included four categories
    • Unfinished Learning
    • Student Academic, Social, Emotional, and Mental Health Needs
    • Prevention and Mitigation Strategies
    • Other Use of Funds including technology, multilingual engagement and equity needs

Proposed Allocation of Funding 

  • Nearly 90% of the funding is to be recommended to address:
    • Unfinished learning 47.5%
    • Student academic and social, emotional and mental health needs 41.8%
    • Technology, multilingual communications and Project Mgmt 10.0%
    • Prevention and mitigation strategies 0.7%
  • Over $168 million is slated for unfinished learning and academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs.
  • Funds are allocated for FY22, FY23 and FY24.
  • In recognition that these are one-time or non-recurring funds and the future fiscal environment is uncertain, a limited number of full-time positions have been included in the request. 

Equity Considerations

  • Much like previous ESSER allocations to schools, academic and SEL intervention will provide funding for each school in FY22 and FY23 based on a formula that considers math achievement, reading achievement, free or reduced-price meals eligibility, ESOL needs, special education needs, and overall enrollment. 
  • Formulas and resulting school allocations are under development. 
  • Region Offices, DSIS, DSS, and Equity and Cultural Responsiveness team members will review and monitor school-based plans, and stipends are to be provided so that each building has two coordinators for academic intervention and SEL intervention, plus additional planning time.
  • Funding will be flexible with an array of strategies available to support students. 

Special Education Staff-Focused

Given that students with disabilities were significantly impacted by school closure and virtual learning and given that special education remains a national critical shortage area, it is imperative that we attract and retain licensed special education teachers to provide direct support to students with disabilities to close the achievement gap that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

  • Special education teachers’ daily contracts will be extended by 30 minutes in FY22 and FY23 to foster special education teacher retention by compensating special education teachers for the additional workload required to address compliance responsibilities beyond their instructional duties. 

School-Focused

  • Principals may use their allocations to fund hourly teachers, hourly counselors, hourly psychologists, or hourly social workers, to provide after-hours tutoring or small group instruction. 
  • Principals may opt to use extended teacher contracts or external tutoring companies instead of hourly assistance. 
  • Principals may use funds for professional development and other appropriate activities in compliance with the grant.
  • Funds have been set aside for an additional year of enhanced summer school in 2022 (FY23).
  • Selected after-school programs will be improved including bus transportation in FY22, FY23 and FY24.

Details of School Options

  • Stipend for School based Intervention and Support Coordinator
  • $20K per school (Academic and SEL)
  • ES additional hourly funding for 3 hours per week planning time
  • Secondary funding for .17 period for extra planning time
  • Tutoring Support (internal staff and external resources)
  • Extended Contracts for teachers and other school staff
  • Hourly Funding for teachers and other school staff
  • Professional Development for school staff
  • Additional Collaborative Time for teachers to plan and complete data analysis
  • Other activities approved by the Region Office and in compliance with the federal grant

Increased Multilingual Family Connections Outreach

Smaller allocations are primarily for translators, interpreters, written communications, technology, equity, and project management among others.

Audit/Monitoring of Funding Usage Implementation

Audit and Oversight of Implementation of the Grant

FCPS is including five positions within the $188.6m grant to serve as a project management oversight team during its implementation. These positions will be temporary for the length of the grant.

As part of the FY22 Continuous Monitoring, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) will include the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) expenditures[1] as samples, to test for compliance with terms and conditions.

[1] These expenditures are also subject to FCPS management controls and monitoring, and federal funds are subject to the Single Audit under the 2 CFR Part 200 - Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards that is performed annually with Fairfax County Government.  

Timeline

  • The grant requires posting of the spending plan on the FCPS website on August 1, 2021.
  • The School Board will vote to approve the plan for the grant allocation on August 26, 2021
  • The deadline for grant submission to VDOE is September 1, 2021. 
  • The grant application is subject to State approval.