Feds release last $1.5 billion for Ohio K-12 schools

First-graders at Orchard Park Elementary School in Kettering work on an activity Tuesday March 2, 2021. The school is open for in-person learning after nearly a year of COVID-19 restrictions.
First-graders at Orchard Park Elementary School in Kettering work on an activity Tuesday March 2, 2021. The school is open for in-person learning after nearly a year of COVID-19 restrictions.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

American Rescue Plan aid was contingent on approval of state plan for the money

The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday approved Ohio’s state plan for using American Rescue Plan money to support K-12 schools’ recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

That means the final $1.49 billion of the previously announced $4.47 billion in federal aid will be released to the state. The first two-thirds of the money had already been delivered and is being distributed to schools on a reimbursement basis for qualified expenses.

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“The approval of these plans enables states to receive vital, additional American Rescue Plan funds to quickly and safely reopen schools for full-time, in-person learning; meet students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs; and address disparities in access to educational opportunity that were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

Local districts’ “use of funds” plans are due to the state Aug. 20.

The American Recovery Plan funds, when combined with the December stimulus for K-12 schools, result in a windfall for many local districts. The Dayton school district has access to $131 million between the two federal efforts. Because the funding is based largely on student poverty, Trotwood-Madison gets $22.9 million, while Springboro, which is twice the size, gets $1.4 million.

Kettering, Northridge, Xenia and Fairborn get $14 million to $16 million each; Troy, Centerville and Northmont schools each have about $7 million available between the two federal relief efforts; while Bellbrook, Tipp City, Brookville and Oakwood each get about $1.8 million.

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Ohio’s state plan focuses on helping schools return to fully in-person learning, providing COVID vaccination opportunities to students age 12-18, academically supporting students whose learning was disrupted by the pandemic, and meeting students’ social, emotional and behavioral needs as they return to school.

“While the pandemic caused many disruptions and illuminated certain inequities, it also highlighted the strengths of our (strategic) plan,” state superintendent Paolo DeMaria said. “As a result, we’ve remained aligned to our vision, goals and priorities even as we’ve worked together to address pandemic-related challenges. Now, with American Rescue Plan support, we can further our efforts to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of students and educators.”