The Kent School District will receive up to $7.3 million from the federal CARES Act to help pay for its transition to remote learning for the 2020-2021 school year due to COVID-19.
The state received about $216 million in funding for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, which oversees distribution of the funds to individual districts. The districts with the largest enrollments received more of the funds, including $10.7 million to Seattle Public Schools, $9.1 million to Spokane Public Schools and $8.2 million to Tacoma Public Schools.
Distribution to neighboring districts to Kent included $6.2 million to Highline Public Schools, $6 million to Federal Way Public Schools, $3.9 million to Renton School District and $3.8 million to Auburn School District. Congress approved the CARES Act in March in response to COVID-19.
“Kent School District plans to use most of this funding on supporting an effective transition to remote learning,” said district spokesperson Melissa Laramie in an email.
The district doesn’t have specific expenditures yet. Laramie said the district can spend the funds this year and next year and that it is a multistep process to getting the funds.
Laramie said funds will be spent on the major expenses, including:
• Investment in professional development – training teachers in best practices for the online/remote learning environment
• Training on new remote learning tools and platforms for school-based staff and leaders
• Training/orientation on strategies and protocols for the period of time the district is in a completely remote education delivery model
• Materials and supplies to aid in the remote learning environment (necessary educational supplies, particularly for families in need)
The funds support the Back-to-School plan approved by the Kent School Board and submitted to the state in August, Laramie said. The Reopening Plan includes details about continuous remote learning, all students physically in school buildings and a hybrid option of both in-person and remote learning.
“The Back to School Task Force continues to meet to update these plans to meet, working collaboratively with Kent School District leaders to update our reopening plans to align with the continuously changing guidelines from OSPI, CDC, Labor and Industries and the state Department of Health,” Laramie said.
There are some restrictions about how a district can use the funds.
“These funds will help Kent School District in the short-term, but because they are one-time funds and they must be used to address costs created by COVID-19, we cannot rely upon them for reoccurring, long-term costs,” Laramie said.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction released priorities about how districts could use the money, including the following priorities:
• Support students furthest from educational justice
• Prepare for health and safety in 2020–2021
• Invest in connectivity and hardware
• Leverage local expertise and provide training