ESSER Survey

Community Input Needed for Use of Emergency Relief Funding
Posted on 07/12/2021
This is the image for the news article titled Community Input Needed for Use of Emergency Relief FundingElementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds totaling nearly $9 million are the latest allocation of monies set aside by Congress to address the impact of the pandemic on education in Weakley County. To fashion the most comprehensive plan for use of the funds, Weakley County Schools has added an ESSER 3.0 Director and is seeking community input.

The Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act passed by Congress on March 27, 2020, created the first installment of ESSER funds. The $939,000 received by Weakley County went to covering the increase in substitute teachers, creation of the Monitored Distance Education virtual option, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and materials needed for the Summer Scholars program in June that sought to lessen learning lost, explained Betsi Foster, former director of federal funding and now assistant director of Weakley County Schools.

In December 2020 additional funds were set aside for ESSER 2.0. Weakley County has now received $3.8 million which will be used to further address learning loss, add educational assistants and reading/math interventionists to schools, provide laptops for every 3rd-12th grade student and iPads in kindergarten through 2nd grade classrooms, supply teachers with updated instructional technology and cover the costs of the summer meal program.

Planning is currently underway to determine how ESSER 3.0 funds will be used.

“Overseeing governmental regulations as to how such a substantial amount of money will be budgeted, distributed, and reported over the next several years will require organization, self-motivation, and initiative,” said Foster. “We think we have that in Angie Rushing. As the new ESSER 3.0 Director, she brings a wealth of knowledge from a variety of facets in education to her role.”

Rushing, who has spent 28 years in the Weakley County Schools’ system, began on July 1. To fulfill grant requirements and ensure that previously gathered information reflects the community, she has devised a brief survey which is now online.

“We know that the most recent allocation of funds is intended to help with learning loss and address the social-emotional and mental health needs of all students, particularly underrepresented students,” said Rushing. “We would like to hear from our stakeholders – teachers, students, families, staff, businesses and organizations – regarding ideas for how we can best achieve our priorities.”
Administrators have identified three priorities in each of the four categories for funding: academics and materials, student readiness, educators/staffing, and foundational elements.

For academics and materials, priorities are experiential learning such as those found in Science/Technology/Reading/Engineering/Arts/Math (STREAM) programs, tutoring, and math textbooks and manipulatives. (Weakley County adopted new English Language Arts curriculum prior to the pandemic.)

Student readiness will focus on credit recovery and remediation for high school students, student mental health and engagement – for instance more social workers and teacher advisors -- and phonics/foundational learning in lower grades.

Staffing priorities encompass special education teachers and technicians, training, and increasing payments for noncertified roles.

Foundational elements to be covered by funding will include facility improvements and additions such as HVAC, awnings, and playgrounds, retrofitting buses to be used for mobile STEM labs and reading enrichment, and the provision for Rushing’s role.

“We have already seen that our teachers and communities can be very creative when faced with adversity,” noted Rushing. “So, we are looking forward to receiving the results of our survey and initiating specific plans to make up for lost time in the classroom, reduce the risk of future virus transmission, promote learning growth among students, purchase more educational technology, and provide mental health services and supports.”

Survey deadline is July 26. The links to the surveys can be found by clicking here:
English Survey
Spanish Survey