Clark County’s three largest school districts received the third batch of federal relief money to alleviate financial and staffing pressure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief, known as ARP ESSER, Fund was allocated to school districts across Washington on Nov. 24.
The funds, which were authorized by the federal American Rescue Plan Act, aim to support safe building reopenings, incorporation of remote learning and any additional operations that may have been hindered or stopped by the pandemic.
In Southwest Washington, Evergreen Public Schools and Vancouver Public Schools — the largest districts in the region and the sixth and ninth biggest districts in the state, respectively — have started to claim portions of this latest batch of funding.
The third batch, referred to as ESSER III funds, are available to school districts to reimburse payments for resources such as additional personal protective equipment, cleaning services, technology additions, unemployment benefits and more. Compared with the previous two batches, the third is intentionally the largest, as it is meant to sustain districts through the 2023-2024 school year. These funds can only be claimed for things that have already been paid for and that are specifically for pandemic-related needs.
For example, Evergreen claimed $1.1 million of the $40.7 million allocated to it as reimbursement for summer school programs. Per the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Evergreen has claimed $15.5 million of the $63.8 million allocated.
The largest portion of the funds Evergreen has claimed thus far has been for employee-related reasons. Those include benefits for employees who were furloughed or laid off, training for new staff, and pay for extra staffing in COVID-19 isolation rooms and other newly added positions, according to district spokeswoman Gail Spolar.
The second largest category to which ESSER funds have gone in Evergreen has been for technology — both for in the classrooms and take-home equipment.
OSPI records show that Vancouver Public Schools has yet to claim any of the $44,668,584 allocated in the latest round. In total, Vancouver has claimed $15.1 million of the $70 million allocated. Like Evergreen, the district has claimed nearly all of its first batch, which is available until September 2023.
Battle Ground Public Schools also has yet to claim any of its ESSER III funds, which total $12.3 million, according to OSPI. The district has claimed $2.6 million of the $19.3 million allocated to date, according to OSPI.
Districts in Southwest Washington and throughout the state will continue to apply for these reimbursements to recoup losses attributed to the pandemic on a quarterly or monthly basis over the next few years.