Late last week on August 27, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of a new funding plan for K-12 schools in Alaska.
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The $122 billion American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) package is part of the larger $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law on March 11, 2021. This funding is meant to help state educational agencies reopen safely and maintain normal operations.
Two thirds of the ARP ESSER funds, totaling $81 billion, has already been distributed to all 50 U.S. states and to the District of Columbia. According to the Department, Alaska has received more than $358 million of those funds and is on track to receive another $119 million with the approval of the August 27 plan. The remaining third of the ARP ESSER funds will be given out once states’ plans are approved.
The Department has also released a roadmap that “provides key resources and support for students, parents, educators, and school communities to build excitement around returning to classrooms this school year and outlines how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning.”
Alaska can use their share of the ARP funding to support the roadmap’s efforts.
The top priorities within Alaska’s ARP ESSER plan include supporting face-to-face instruction, expanding social, emotional, and mental health supports, and helping reduce the “learning loss” students faced during the pandemic.
With assistance from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED), school districts will receive guidance on ensuring that students and staff are wearing masks, maintaining adequate physical distancing, proper cleaning of high-contact surfaces, regular COVID testing, and much more.
DEED will also focus on other objectives such as addressing lost instructional time for students, investing in summer learning and afterschool programs for students who are behind.
Dr. Michael Johnson, commissioner of DEED, said in a statement:
“On behalf of the team that developed our state plan and Alaska’s families, we appreciate the U.S. Department of Education allowing Alaska to utilize ARP resources for our students and their families.”