People interested in seeing how the Lake Mills Area School District will spend the ESSER II funds now have access to an online document detailing how the funds are being allocated. During Monday night’s school board meeting, Director of Business Services Tasha Naylor said the ESSER II budget, which has been approved by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, has been posted under the district finance tab of the district’s website.
The ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Education Relief) II funds are part of the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA). The money is to address the impact of COVID-19 on elementary and secondary schools. The state of Wisconsin received a total of $686 million in ESSER II grants. According to the DPI’s ESSER II final allocations document, updated Jan. 6, the LMASD received $318,005 through the ESSER money formula allocation plus an additional $323,881 in in-person instructional additional funds for a total ESSER II allocation of $641,886.
There are five categories where Lake Mills has spent the money. Most of the funds went to addressing long-term school closure; a total of $233,262 was used to pay for things such as salaries and benefits for additional kindergarten and second grade teachers to reduce the number of children in each classroom ($130,305), purchasing curriculum supplies, instructional media for social and emotional learning, instructional staff training for math, and buying instruction related technology.
The district decided to spend a total of $207,915 for preparedness and response to COVID-19 purchases. A total of $205,415 was used on construction services for outdoor learning spaces to promote agricultural programs, culinary arts, science classes and the summer school program. The remainder of the money in that category was used for buying face masks and other personal protective equipment.
Money was also spent on educational technology — $185,000 total for student Chromebooks and computer accessories (mice, keyboards, docking stations, etc.); mental health services and supports — $8,000 for staff wellness activities; and addressing afterschool and summer learning — $4,125 for the summer school program.
“This is subject to change based on revisions, which we already have,” Naylor said, referring to the recent update by the DPI. “As we balance the budget and things come in there will be some slight changes possibly but that gives you a good idea of under those categories where the money’s going.”
Superintendent Tonya Olson provided an update on the ESSER III funds during the meeting. She explained there are more restrictions on this money compared to the previous ESSER funding.
“The district has to submit the safe return to school and continuity of services plan before we can enter anything into the grant portal,” Olson said.
The administrator said the plan is similar to the district’s pandemic plan but has some additional required information including how the LMASD would provide continuity of services throughout COVID-19.
“Some of that looks like continuing a robust mental health program, a robust summer school program… we’re looking at providing additional supports for (summer school) instruction,” Olson said. “I hate to use that term ‘loss of learning,’ but just to be able to make some gains for several students who need that. We’re also looking at providing supports for this year and even next year in reduction of class sizes, keeping the elementary school class sizes smaller.”
Additionally, when looking at creating the budget for the ESSER III money the district is required to get community input for how the funds are spent. Olson said the district will work to ensure it reaches the more marginalized student and family populations to get feedback. The superintendent noted the district is also considering putting out a survey through its website to get input from the community on spending the money.
Olson said 20% of the ESSER III funds must be spent on evidence-based instruction. Director of Learning and Instruction Amanda Thompson is working with other staff members to formulate a plan to ensure the district meets this requirement.
The district needs to submit its ESSER III budget for approval to the state DPI by March 11.
Other board action:
• Approved the 2022-23 school calendar. Olson said it is nearly identical to the current academic year calendar.
• Approved the addition of advanced placement chemistry and advanced placement Spanish at the high school beginning with the 2022-23 academic year.
• Set the summer school dates of June 15-30 for session one and July 6-21 for session two. Swimming lessons will also be conducted during the later session.