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CCS Identifies Student-Centered Priorities for Federal Pandemic Relief Funds

May 20, 2021 -- Using federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, Columbus City Schools has outlined its spending priorities which includes more school counselors, literacy specialists, air conditioning and heat for 16 schools, and laptops for every student.


Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan


Congress has authorized three relief packages since the onset of the pandemic with ESSER funds in each identified to assist local school districts address needs and recover student learning loss. ESSER I was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act; ESSER II in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA); and ESSER III in the American Rescue Plan (ARPA).

“The investments we will make with these federal dollars are student-centered and focus on addressing needs brought on or exacerbated by the pandemic, including learning acceleration,” said Columbus City Schools Superintendent/CEO, Dr. Talisa Dixon. “That includes strengthening literacy beginning with our youngest learners, providing technology and improved connectivity for all students, as well as social-emotional support services and infrastructure improvements at our school buildings so that the experience in and out of the classroom further develops students into successful global citizens of the 21st century.” 


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Amount of Funding CCS Expects to Receive

The amount of federal funds that were allocated to school districts is based on the percent of total federal Title I funds each entity receives. Each of the three types of ESSER funds includes a spending deadline. Columbus City Schools expects to receive:

  • ESSER I - $30.9 million
    • Must be spent by September 2022
  • ESSER II - $130.7 million
    • Must be spent by September 2023
  • ESSER III - Anticipated $287.6 million
    • Must be spent by September 2024
    • 20% of the funds must be spent on learning recovery strategies

The District will invest in strategies supporting four priorities with its ESSER funds:

  • Learning Recovery and Supports for Schools
  • Infrastructure Improvements
  • Technology
  • Development and Professional Learning

Learning Recovery and Supports for Schools

  • School Counselors - As a result of the pandemic, student and staff social emotional needs have intensified. CCS will hire up to 33 additional school counselors, which will allow the District to allocate a dedicated full-time school counselor in every school.
  • Primary Literacy Specialists - These will be teachers trained to provide evidence-based interventions to support literacy instruction in all elementary schools.
  • Secondary Literacy Supports - These will be instructional assistants trained to provide evidence-based interventions in all middle and high schools to support students who are reading below grade level.
  • Bilingual Liaisons for Each Region - Trained bilingual liaisons will support the work done in our schools by Family Ambassadors, focusing on the needs of English learners and their families.
  • Program Supports - Each school will hire a part-time program support position to assist with the coordination requirements related to improving student attendance that has been impacted due to the pandemic.
  • Vulnerable Youth Advocates - CCS will increase its services and supports provided to homeless and vulnerable youth. The District will use a regional approach to provide equitable support to address unique needs and aid in effectively mitigating barriers to academic engagement and achievement.

Infrastructure Improvements

  • Ventilation Upgrades - Ventilation systems including air conditioning and heating will be updated to improve ventilation in schools that currently have partial or no air conditioning. This will include improving the controls and automation of HVAC systems. The HVAC work will occur over the summer of 2022. 
      • The 16 school buildings receiving HVAC upgrades include:
        • Columbus Alternative High School (CAHS)
        • Johnson Park Middle
        • Mifflin Middle
        • Woodward Park at Walden (6th grade)
        • Yorktown Middle
        • Broadleigh Elementary
        • Colerain Elementary
        • Como Elementary
        • Fairwood Elementary
        • Hubbard Elementary
        • Maize Elementary
        • North Linden Elementary
        • Valleyview Elementary
        • West Broad Elementary
        • Westgate Elementary
        • Westmoor Elementary
  • Auditorium Upgrades - In order to provide socially distanced learning spaces, as well as future blended learning environments through the use of technology, some school auditoriums will be updated with enhanced audio-visual equipment and technology.

Technology

  • Laptops, Chromebooks, and Computing Devices - The District will fund the purchase and support of computers and devices to ensure that every student has their own device and that all staff have the technology needed to carry out their work.
  • Hot Spots and Broadband Access - The district will purchase additional internet hot spots and fund broadband technology to supplement services available in the community to ensure that students are able to access online resources at school and at home. CCS has distributed hot spots to more than 4,000 families to-date.

Development and Professional Learning

  • Learning Technology - A new team of learning designers and educational specialists will roll out a PK-12 curriculum repository that will ensure teachers, students, and families can benefit from high quality curriculum and resources in a one-stop shop. This new team will provide professional learning for teachers to help them fully integrate technology platforms to increase engagement and rigor into daily instruction. This team will also provide learning opportunities for families to develop technological and digital citizenship skills needed to support learning at home.
  • Staff Development - A new team of training specialists will provide professional development for all 9,000 teachers and staff across the district, including both certificated and classified employees in our school buildings, administrative offices, and business and operations sites.

Intended Strategies and Outcomes of ESSER Investments

The pandemic exposed the social and emotional needs of students in collaboration with maintaining grade-level curriculum. Investing in staff and the technical support to connect students to opportunities and resources is key to ensure equitable outcomes for all current and future students. CCS cannot return to instructional methods prior to the pandemic but will look to maximize technical resources for transformational educational opportunities for students, teachers, and staff. 

Quarterly Investment Updates

CCS will provide quarterly updates to the Finance and Appropriations Committee on the investments made with ESSER funds. CCS will also create a hub on the district website to show the priorities and strategies for the use of federal ESSER funds.