The American Rescue Plan signed into law in March by President Joe Biden included $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds for school districts across the country, which is the single largest investment in federal elementary and secondary education in the nation’s history. Leander ISD will utilize these funds to accelerate learning and mitigate impact on student learning.

ESSER provides resources for:

  • critical one-time investments;
  • time-limited programming to respond to the pandemic;
  • and innovation that can redefine student learning, acceleration, and development.

Leander ISD is allocated $15,811,197 to be expended from March 2020 through the 2023–2024 school year.

Engaging the public

To help determine how to use the ESSER III funds, Leander ISD embarked on an extensive outreach to stakeholders, which included the following: 

  • Conducted surveys to district-level staff
  • Conducted surveys to campus-level staff
  • Conducted surveys to parents
  • Sent direct communication to staff, parents, and students to gather input
  • Reviewed and analyzed data from local and state health authorities
  • Reviewed documented comprehensive needs assessment considering the pandemic to determine needs
  • Consulted with local school board to determine needs
  • Followed documented emergency plan with specific needs assessment processes 

The following processes were utilized to prioritize needs with specific focus on: 

  • Needs serving the largest number of students
  • Serving needs of identified student groups (at-risk, migrant, immigrant, students with disabilities, English Learners, Homeless, Foster, etc.)
  • Facility needs
  • School operational needs
  • Technology needs

Identified priorities 

  • Addressing learning needs among students, including low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, student experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care
  • Administering and using high-quality assessments
  • Implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students
  • School facility repairs and improvements to enable operation of schools to reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards, and to support student health needs
  • Inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, and upgrade projects to improve the indoor air quality in school facilities, including: filtering, purification and other air cleaning, fans, control systems
  • Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in the LEA
  • Other activities that are necessary to continuing to employ existing staff of the LEA

What is our comprehensive ESSER plan?

Leander ISD’s ESSER plan will address students’ needs and accelerate progress toward our 2025 goals through the following strategies.

Students sit in class

Healthy Students, Healthy Schools and Healthy Community

Focus on physical, mental, and emotional health. The district plans to allocate ten percent of its ESSER III funds to the following strategies:

  • Additional Elementary school Counselors to support identified mental health needs as a result of the pandemic and return to school. 
  • Middle School summer service will be provided in person to address the transition back to in-person learning. 
  • The district will continue to replace Merv filters, as needed, to improve air quality in the school buildings.
Students work on a tablet

Equitable Access to Learning & Enrichment

Focus on ensuring every student can fully engage with learning while also having access to outstanding enrichment opportunities. The equity-minded investment will help improve technology and expand opportunities for students to fully explore their passions. The district plans to allocate fourteen percent of its ESSER III funds to the following strategies:

  • Expansion of summer school to address a wide range of needs including students in special education, at-risk, low socioeconomic and bilingual students. 
  • Address the repair and maintenance of technological devices used during the pandemic.
  • Additional support for continued use of wifi hotspots for students to ensure access to education.
  • Extension of remote or virtual learning to students PreK-12, as determined necessary, based on need.
Students collaborate

Learning Recovery & Acceleration

The strategy will help mitigate academic gaps caused by the pandemic. The district plans to allocate thirty-two percent of its ESSER III funds to the following strategies: 

  • Expand use of learning labs at the High School level to support specific learning gaps and needs.
  • Support student success facilitators who work at the Middle School and High School levels to ensure data driven interventions for students failing and/or to address additional learning needs.
  • The district will add a universal screener for K-8 reading and mathematics to monitor student growth and any potential learning needs.
  • Purchase and implementation of phonics intervention instructional resources.
  • Expansion of summer school to address a wide range of needs including students in special education, at-risk, low socioeconomic and bilingual students. 

**The remaining ARP ESSER funds will be used for allowable activities that are necessary to maintain the operation and continuity of services in the district and that are necessary for continuing to employ existing staff.

Next Steps

  1. Seek on-going and meaningful consultation from the community during Listening Leader Sessions scheduled for: 
    • September 16
    • November 11
    • January 20
    • March 31
    • June 2
  2. Adjust plan as needed based on feedback obtained during Listening Leader Sessions. Per State guidance, the district’s ESSER III plan will be reviewed at least every six months until September 30, 2023 and amendments made as deemed necessary.
  3. Finalize the evaluation and progress monitoring system for the programs and activities.
  4. Collect documentation for audit and monitoring purposes on each activity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the ARP ESSER III funds?

The purpose of ESSER is to award subgrants to local educational agencies (LEAs) to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools.

How much funding is available to Texas LEAs?

A total of $12,418,588,778 is available to the state. Ninety percent, or $11,176,729,900, will be awarded to eligible LEAs. Note that only two-thirds  of the total state allocation ($8,279,059,186) is available at this time.

How will LEAs know their grant amounts?

Grant allocations will be posted on the Grants Administration Entitlements webpage.

What is the funding period for ARP ESSER III grants?

Funds may be used for allowable activities from March 13, 2020 (with approved pre-award) through Sept. 30, 2023.

What are the requirements pertaining to the LEA ESSER III Use of Funds Plan?

  • The LEA must engage in meaningful consultation with stakeholders and give the public an opportunity to provide input in the development of its plan for the uses of ARP ESSER III funds.
  • The LEA must provide its plan for the uses of ARP ESSER III funds in an understandable and uniform format.
  • The LEA’s plan for the uses of ARP ESSER III funds will be posted to the LEA’s website within 30 days of receiving its ESSER III Notice of Grant Award.

Are the ESSER III funds required to be used for specific purposes?

Yes, LEAs must expend a minimum of 20 percent of their grant funds on:

Evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning, extended day comprehensive after school programs, or extended school year programs; and

Ensure interventions respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on student populations as defined in ESEA, Title I, Part A, students experiencing homelessness, and youth in foster care.

Are there recommended uses of ESSER III funds that will assist LEAs in addressing the impact of the COVID pandemic and disruptions to learning?

While keeping in mind the purpose and requirements under ESSER III related to accelerating student learning, TEA strongly encourages school districts to plan to use these one-time federal funds expeditiously over the entire covered period to facilitate a more comprehensive long-term approach to learning acceleration. 

This may include aligned strategies that are currently part of a district’s current plans and strategies. A qualitative review of draft local learning acceleration plans revealed the following trends and suggestions, including but not limited to:

Professional Development: comprehensive Reading Academies, high-quality instructional materials, dyslexia training, professional development stipends, technology integration training;

Extended Instructional Time: summer learning, flexible skill-based tutorials

Staffing: tutors, reduced class sizes, small group instruction, staff retention and recruitment, stipends, after school enrichment programs, instructional coaching and leadership;

Facilities: ventilation, cleaning, HVAC systems, specialized instructional spaces;

Technology: devices, infrastructure upgrades, learning management systems, digital tools, educational application;

Mental Health and Behavioral Supports: social workers, family services team,  at-risk campus coordinators, additional counseling services, teacher training and programming, wrap-around and community partnerships.

What are some of the allowable uses of the ARP ESSER III funds?

ESSER funds are designated to be used in any or all of 15 areas, which include addressing learning needs, providing professional development, improving indoor air quality, providing social and emotional supports, updating and providing technology, and others (FAQ from TEA)

Will the state provide replacement funds for ESSER after 2023?

Since the large influx of ESSER funding into LEAs can result in funding deficits when it ends, the LEA must plan for how to effectively and efficiently use the ESSER funds. It is recommended to use the ESSER grant funds for one-time or short-term expenditures to address the identified needs caused by the pandemic. Although long-term uses of the ESSER funds are also allowable, these types of uses may cause the LEA to not have funding to continue these  activities after the ESSER period of availability ends, thus creating fiscal deficits.