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

ESSER III Fund Requirements

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.

For more information on the ESSER III grant, please watch this video.

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 ESSER III webpage.  

In developing the ARP ESSER III Plan, the division conducted 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.

Overview of the Process

The FCPS Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) funding allocation is $188.8 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.

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. 
  • 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 leads 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. 


  • 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 were 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 Lead
  • $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 included positions within the $188.8m 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 and FY23 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.  


  • The grant required posting of the spending plan on the FCPS website on August 1, 2021.
  • The School Board voted to approve the plan for the grant allocation on August 26, 2021
  • The deadline for grant submission to VDOE was September 1, 2021. 
  • The grant application was subject to State approval. 
  • School divisions were required to submit an updated ESSER III Spending Plan to the Virginia Department of Education by December 31, 2022. See the updated FCPS’ Revised ESSER III Spending Plan (released December 27, 2022).

School Board Meetings, Public Hearings and Work Sessions

December 13, 2022 Community Conversation:  Watch the video recording.

February 24, 2022 Public Hearing:  Watch the video recording

February 22, 2022 Work SessionpresentationESSER III ACCOUNTABILITY REPORT 1Spending Plan Narrative, video recording.

July 15, 2021 Regular Meeting:  The School Board authorized the Superintendent to develop and submit a formal plan to the State. Watch the video recording.  

July 13, 2021 Work Session: The recommended ESSER III funding plan was presented to the School Board.  Watch the video recording

June 7, 2021 Public Hearing: Watch the video recording