The second stimulus bill was passed on December 27, 2020 and is called the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act. This bill provided an additional 54.3 billion dollars to the overall ESSER fund. District 211 was allocated $4,130,009 in additional funding through this grant. This funding is designed to be used toward mitigating the unprecedented learning loss that many of our vulnerable students have endured as well as toward restoring high quality educational environments.
Prior to the start of the 2020-2021 school year, District 211 created a Learning Renewal Team, consisting of school and district staff members that conducted research to develop options for hybrid, in-person, and remote learning as well as identify effective potential uses for ESSER II funding. Consistent with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Illinois P-20 Council Learning Renewal Resource Guide, District 211 planned to utilize funding from the CRRSA Act using these core principles: focus on the most impacted students; identify priority areas for new or further improvement; align our efforts with state learning goals; maintain a strong equity focus; and continually review, analyze and update our efforts. Ultimately, these principles are guided by the P-20 Council’s vision for the “road to renewal,” which seeks to “maximize the number of students and understand each student’s ongoing needs to provide individualized support while extending time and empowering educators with cutting-edge resources to propel Illinois students toward a successful future.”
Using the recommendations of the ISBE and other state organizations, District 211 organized our internal learning renewal efforts into two areas of focus: social-emotional health and academic success. Within these areas of focus, we began the 2020-2021 school year with a focus on three phases of implementation which were applied consecutively and then in parallel with each other. These phases of implementation included re-engagement of students, identification of current reality and the development of tailored support options. As we prepared the budget required for the grant application and access to the funding, we organized our funding into five major categories: Academic Support, Technology, Health & Safety, Social-emotional Support, and Facilities & Logistics.
The category with the highest budget amount in the ESSER II grant was Academic Support. The funding in this category allowed us to provide continuous instruction to students during the school day as well as additional enhancement and tutoring options for students. As the 2020-2021 school year progressed, we quickly realized that we needed to constantly revise and redevelop our efforts and programs to ensure the impact and effectiveness as we transitioned from remote learning to hybrid learning and back. Additionally, we offered families the opportunity to individually chose their learning environment while still having the ability to access whichever learning environment they felt most comfortable in. When combining the areas of focus with the phases of implementation, we are able to individualize and streamline our efforts to meet our students exactly where they are and provide high levels of support to move them forward toward increased wellness and academic success.
One large-scale use of this funding included the creation and implementation of a comprehensive Summer Advancement Program (2021), which sought to: re-engage students in in-person learning by providing opportunities for students to learn critical skills and content, increase students’ comfort and excitement about returning to in-person learning, prepare them for upcoming rigorous coursework in the fall and allow students to explore potential college and career pathway opportunities. This program included differentiated options for students – including weekly intensive workshops, virtual learning renewal options, incomplete remediation for students who earned incomplete grades during the second semester of the 2020-2021 school year, and additional assistance for students who may have been disproportionately affected by disruptions to school and were not on-track to graduate in May 2021.
The second largest budget category of CRRSA funding included the creation and implementation of a Student Social-Emotional Health Renewal Team. The purpose of this team is to create additional resources within District 211 to engage directly with students, families and outside community agencies. The team currently consists of additional social workers and school counselors who were hired during the 2021-2022 school to provide additional support and immediate access to students. These staff members were integrated into our existing school-based teams to achieve the following: connect with disengaged students and families to ensure re-engagement and regular school attendance, provide wrap-around support to students and families through the collaboration with local community resources, and provide ongoing social-emotional and academic interventions throughout the school year.
Additional budget amounts were set aside to hire additional school nurses and certified nursing assistants to support students, required testing programs, and facilitate logistics of quarantine and isolation, continuation of software licenses and additional technology to ensure that students could continue to access learning experiences in remote and hybrid environments, and purchase personal protective equipment, sanitation supplies, and screening equipment to comply with continued mitigations.
We also planned for the use of CRRSA funding to both strengthen current academic interventions and implement new academic support options for students during the 2021-2022 school year. These options included offering expanded afterschool tutoring and academic support options at each District 211 school, increasing our ability to track the success of our interventions and providing additional school day opportunities for students to receive support. The original plan for ESSER II funding was to be used throughout the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years. A complete list of the budgeted categories as well as the projected expenditures through the end of the 2021-2022 school year can be found in the ESSER #2 (CRRSA) District 211 Budget and Current Expenditures table below.