The Concord School District has spent about $4.7 million of the $14.9 million COVID relief funds allocated to the district so far, according to state data found on a new online dashboard.
About 35% of the money has gone to pay for staffing, 30% to student wellness and social-emotional learning support and 9% to special education, with smaller amounts to technology and food programming, among other things.
Six miles up the road, the Merrimack Valley School District has spent $2.3 million of its $5.2 million allocated COVID relief funds. About 42% of the money has gone toward technology, 19% to window and door replacement, 5% to staffing and smaller amounts to social-emotional learning support and cleaning supplies, among other things.
A new online dashboard launched by the New Hampshire Department of Education this week displays how each school district is spending federal COVID-19 relief funds that were allocated to districts over the past two years. The webpage, called “iGrant,” is part of the Department’s iPlatform website and has data on funding allocations, spending details, paid reimbursements by school districts and the top activities where dollars are being spent by schools. The site is intended to increase financial transparency for the public.
The total amount a district has spent can be tracked through the “reimbursement” category, although districts’ reimbursement requests are still ongoing.
“COVID relief funds have been instrumental in helping New Hampshire and other states with their educational needs as they look ahead,” said Jessica Lescarbeau, the Department of Education’s administrator of COVID-19 education programs. “This new webpage is a tremendous resource for the public to be able to explore how schools are allocating these funds to jumpstart and strengthen recovery efforts.”
Concord has spent a large amount of its COVID dollars on staff salaries, something that is typical of the federal grants according to Melissa White, director of the Division of Learner Support at the Dept. of Education. One of ESSER’s allowable activities is paying salaries for Title I interventionists and paras, for after-school teachers, special education teachers and special education paras, as long as they are all district employees.
“Anything from adding additional nurses or substitute nurses to help out during the pandemic, custodial staff or a company coming in to help clean the schools,” White said. “It’s interventionists providing targeted services for students, it’s paraprofessionals to help out in the classroom, there’s a huge range.”
On the iGrant web page, users can see districts’ ESSER allocations in real-time as well as their budgets, approvals and reimbursements. Users can sort by school district, geographic region, type of grant and amount of grant to see how they’re being used.
The federal government has released $190 billion in aid to education facilities since the start of the pandemic, including three stimulus packages that have included funds for schools nationwide. New Hampshire received about $650 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan and Secondary Relief Fund, to assist with missed learning opportunities as a result of COVID.
Manchester received 22% of all COVID relief funds that were budgeted to New Hampshire school districts, something White said was decided by the U.S. Department of Education in its funding formula. The formula likely took into account Manchester’s large student population, White said, but also the fact that it has a high number of students who are English language learners, are racially diverse and are at or below the federal poverty level. The U.S. Department of Education uses U.S. Census Bureau data to determine poverty rates rather than Free & Reduced lunch levels.
Statewide, schools have used ESSER funds to buy new HVAC units, install new windows, purchase sanitizing supplies, offer small-group tutoring, provide professional development opportunities for employees, expand summer programming and other initiatives, according to the dashboard.
“Our Department is also using these funds to narrow the performance gap and break down barriers that are preventing students from receiving a high-quality education,” said New Hampshire education commissioner Frank Edelblut. “Thanks to these funds, we have been able to launch incredible programs that offer tutoring to New Hampshire students, ensure that every child is able to attend summer camp, bring professional development training to educators and establish community learning pods, among other efforts. We will continue to support initiatives that will accelerate recovery efforts and help youth aim higher, while also sharing those projects through our newly transparent and interactive dashboard.”