Kentwood High School. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Kentwood High School. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Kent School District, teachers union reach agreement about in-person learning

Start dates of April 12 for elementary school; April 19 for middle and high schools

The Kent School District and Kent Education Association (KEA) reached a tentative agreement for grades K-12 to start in-person learning April 12 for the elementary students and April 19 for middle and high school students.

“As of now, there are no disagreements,” said KEA president Christie Padilla in a March 26 email. “I am 100% confident that all elementary schools will be open on April 12, and all secondary schools will be open on April 19.”

The teachers union and district staff had met for three hours everyday to work out the small details regarding training and protocols for a safe return, Padilla said.

Parents/students will still have the option to remain in remote learning, which the district started a year ago due to COVID-19. Otherwise, students will participate in a hybrid program of remote learning and in-person learning.

With the agreement with the union, the Kent School District announced March 26 that in-person learning for secondary students, grades 7-12, in a hybrid learning model, will start on April 19. All district families must choose between a hybrid learning model or choose to remain in remote learning for each student by Thursday, April 1.

For more information and to select remote or hybrid learning, parents should go to the Kent School District website.

Federal funds withheld

The agreement was reached after the Oregon Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) office released information this week that Kent was one of 14 districts not eligible to receive the second round of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) funds during March apportionment (when the state sends funds to school districts, which happens once per month).

Kent was one of 12 districts to submit reopening plans but not have the plan approved by OSPI. Two school districts didn’t submit reopening plans, according to a March 24 email from OSPI spokesperson Katy Payne.

“Along with 11 other districts, Kent’s reopening plan was not approved by the March cutoff date because we did not believe they had secured agreements at the local level,” Payne said.

Payne said each of the districts that submitted reopening plans were close to agreements.

“(They) are working hard, they have made progress, and most of them are very close,” she said. “We fully expect that they will meet their reopening requirements and receive access to ESSER II funds in April. We will continue to monitor and assist them in any way we can.”

Kent will receive its full allotment of federal relief funds, just not as soon as other districts.

$100 million in relief funds

“Kent will not be losing out on any funds – the funds are being temporarily withheld until their plan is approved,” Payne said. “Districts have 2.5 years to spend their ESSER II funds.”

In the first round of COVID-19 relief, Kent received $7.3 million, Payne said. Kent is eligible for $28.2 million in the second round.

Kent is eligible for an estimated $63.5 million in the third round of funds, which are not yet being allocated, Payne said.

That’s a total of nearly $100 million for the Kent School District. OSPI has released a list about how the funds can be used (see below).

Congress just approved the third round of ESSER funds. In their first round, Kent received $7,316,630. In the second round, Kent is eligible to receive $28,281,091. The estimated amount they will receive in the third round of funds (which are not yet being allocated) is $63,515,000.

How school districts may spend ESSER funds:

• Coordination of COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts.

• Providing principals and other school leaders with resources to address individual school needs.

• Activities to address the needs of students experiencing poverty, students with disabilities, multilingual/English learners, students of color, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth, including outreach and service delivery.

• Procedures and systems to improve district preparedness and response efforts.

• Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean school facilities and training staff on sanitization protocols.

• Planning for and coordinating the delivery of instruction and services during remote learning.

• Purchasing educational technology for students.

• Providing mental health services and supports.

• Planning and implementing summer learning and supplemental after-school programs.

• Addressing learning loss among students, including by administering high-quality assessments to assess academic progress, implementing evidence-based activities to meet the comprehensive needs of students, providing information and assistance to families on how to effectively support students, and tracking student attendance and improving engagement in remote learning.

• School facility repairs and improvements 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 air quality in school facilities, including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification and other air cleaning, fans, control systems, and window and door repair and replacement.

• Other activities necessary to maintain district operations and services and employ existing staff.

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