Local schools received millions of dollars in COVID-19 funding through three rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding but this is the last year the districts have to spend it. ESSER funding runs out in September 2024.
On top of that, schools locally and across the country have struggled to bring kids back to pre-pandemic academic achievement levels, after students lost learning time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here’s how 14 local schools have spent their federal COVID-19 money in the last two years and how they plan to spend their remaining funds this year.
Beavercreek City Schools received $8.7 million in ESSER funds. District treasurer Joy Kitzmiller said 84% of ESSER funds have been spent so far and the remaining 16% will be spent by the end of the year.
Beavercreek has used the funds for materials, supplies, online services, personnel and HVAC improvements.
A large amount of that money, at least $1.2 million, has been allocated to staff salaries and benefits, especially for support staff such as social workers, instructional coaches and tutors.
That’s because Beavercreek was impacted by students’ mental health post-pandemic, with many students struggling, the district said.
Beavercreek also received $2.8 million in “supplemental” ESSER funds, which was money distributed to lower-poverty districts that didn’t receive as much in the first three ESSER rounds. Beavercreek’s supplemental ESSER amount was fifth highest in the state.
District spokeswoman Anaka Rettig said Beavercreek is using the remaining funds to continue to provide support staff to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of students, including social workers, instructional coaches, and intervention support teachers. These funds are being used to provide digital resources and instructional materials to continue to support learning loss due to COVID, she said.
“When the funding is no longer available, the district will evaluate the continued needs of our students and determine what funds will be utilized to sustain essential support and programs,” Rettig said.
Bellbrook Sugarcreek received $3 million in ESSER funds and has spent about 60% of those funds so far, according to superintendent Doug Cozad.
He said the district is using ESSER funds to decrease class sizes, which helps teachers provide more academic support. ESSER funds are also being used for behavior support for students, summer intervention, technology skills for students and curriculum materials, including required updates from the state curriculum in science that teaches kids to read.
“Once the ESSER funds are no longer available, the funding for these positions will be coming out of the general fund — something we planned for since the passage of our levy,” Cozad said.
In May 2021, district voters passed a $3.2 million, seven-year levy with 53% of the vote.
Centerville Schools received about $9.1 million in ESSER funds, of which about 87% of the money has been spent. The district said only about $1.58 million remains to spend by the end of the year.
Centerville has spent money on remediation for students, teacher planning and preparation, professional development and additional staff. The district also plans to spend on educational and cleaning supplies.
Centerville used part of the money to replace some HVAC units in its schools, including in Tower Middle School, to improve air quality.
The district has a detailed breakdown of how various categories of this money was spent on its website.
Dayton Public Schools received $143.3 million in COVID relief funds. DPS says the district has spent $85.8 million, which is 61% of the funds received.
Hiwot Abraha, the district’s treasurer, said just $15.3 million of ESSER III funds are unencumbered.
Dayton has used their funds for a wide variety of items. ESSER funding contributed to the two-teacher model that DPS has in grades one, two and three, to bus driver bonuses, and to building Welcome Stadium and the district’s new transportation center for bus drivers.
DPS recently announced changes to the two-teacher model and plans to improve the district’s math scores in grades seven through 12.
Two teachers will still work in grades one through three classrooms, but the teachers will collaborate on a single lesson instead of teaching different lessons simultaneously. DPS announced the changes after last school year’s test scores did not show as much improvement as hoped.
Fairborn City Schools received $16.1 million in COVID relief funds, of which 85% has been spent.
All of the first two rounds of ESSER funds and some of the third round was spent for the continuation of salary and benefits for current staff.
Another $7.4 million is being primarily used to hire additional staff members. This includes a couple counselors to help with social/emotional issues. Most of these positions are teachers in grades K-12, with an emphasis on language arts and math in grades 1 through 3.
“This federal funding helped to stabilize our funding in a very uncertain time and provided the opportunity to address some of the challenges raised by the pandemic,” said district treasurer Kevin Philo.
Kettering received $18.3 million in ESSER funding and has spent all of it.
The district used it for Google Classrooms, paying teachers and aides to stay after school and provide additional support for students, and to hire additional school nurses and school therapists.
Dan Von Handorf, Kettering assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said the biggest things the district is no longer doing due to lack of funding include summer work on Google Classrooms and paying teachers and staff for extended days.
“We have applied for other grants to continue those types of opportunities for kids, but we have not received any yet,” he said.
Huber Heights City Schools received $18.8 million in COVID relief funds. According to ODE data, about 33% of that money has been spent.
The district said most of the money went to computer equipment and services, as well as to employee pay and benefits.
One of the largest projects undertaken with the ESSER funds is the new career tech expansion at Wayne High School, which superintendent Jason Enix said used up the largest amount of funds.
He said the center is being finalized and ready for students to begin learning, and the project is on time and on budget.
Other planned uses of the funds include putting tutors in every school and grade level to address learning loss and paying for mental health services, he said.
“Remaining funds are being used to continue supporting salaries and benefits for learning loss/personnel,” he said.
Mad River Local Schools received $11.7 million in COVID relief funds. This includes $7.2 million in ESSER III funds, of which about 66% has been spent.
The vast majority of federal relief was allocated to salary and benefits to retain existing staff, according to the district. About $1.4 million is being used to hire recovery learning teachers and therapists, which will be discontinued after the funding runs out.
District superintendent Chad Wyen said the district will need to reconsider what they are doing once federal funds run out in September 2024. Otherwise, the district will need to pay for it out of the general fund.
“We have two Literary Support Teachers that will go back to the classroom once our ESSER dollars end,” Wyen said. “Depending on enrollment, and staffing needs for the 2024-25 school year, we will either maintain our current staffing level, or we will need to make some corrections.”
Miamisburg received about $14.5 million in ESSER dollars, and has spent a little more than 60%, according to Miamisburg treasurer Justin Blevins.
Superintendent Laura Blessing said the district was continuing to spend money on employee salaries and benefits. The district said last year the funds helped avoid deficit spending, providing money for unfunded mandates from the state and the changes the district had to make around online learning.
Northmont City Schools received $8.3 million in COVID relief funds. According to Ohio Department of Education data, the district has spent about 75% of those funds.
Northmont spent the money on distance learning and supplies, teacher salaries and benefits, tutors and mentoring.
“We will use all remaining funds for tutors and academic needs of our students,” said district spokeswoman Jenny Wood.
Oakwood Schools received about $2.2 million in ESSER funds and has about $1.5 million left to spend by the end of September 2024.
Oakwood spokeswoman Traci Hale said that Oakwood leaders plan to use the remaining funds in the learning recovery plan, curriculum, social and emotional learning, heating, air conditioning and ventilation, nursing services, cleaning and protective equipment, and technology.
The district spent $45,000 on a new van, which Oakwood uses to transport students to school instead of yellow buses, and $116,090 on technology devices.
Springboro received $6.3 million in ESSER funding. The district has spent about 86% of the funds so far.
The district has spent money on testing software to help identify gaps in student learning, reading intervention teachers, nursing and mental health supports, cleaning and sanitation supplies, seating options for students and staff to have more space in classrooms, learning materials and programs, facility upgrades to improve indoor air quality, window and door replacements and staff training activities to address learning loss, said Scott Marshall, district spokesman.
Springboro, like most districts, spent money to help students work through the emotional trauma and the pandemic and relearn how to connect to their peers after having time away from the classroom.
Springfield City Schools received $48.9 million in COVID relief funds, of which about 42% has been spent, according to district records.
Springfield has spent money on social and emotional learning, recovering from learning loss and more.
The district is reaching out to those impacted the most, including English language learners, the homeless and students with disabilities. They also hired new staff positions including attendance officers, intervention specialists, reading specialists and nurses.
The future of these programs is uncertain when the federal funds runs out, but previously, district officials said they don’t plan to ask for another levy.
Trotwood-Madison City Schools received $25 million in COVID relief funds. The district has spent about 85% of their funds, according to Janice Allen, treasurer.
The district spent money on school supplies, cleaning supplies and rewards and incentives to get students to join online classes in 2021. More recently, Trotwood has spent on employee salaries and benefits, as well as online educational services and equipment like internet hot spots.
The district also spent $50,321 on “enrichment activities” for students, such as trips to Kings Island, theater performance and marching band competitions. Funds were also spent on playground, HVAC and other facility improvements. They also purchased four new buses.
Trotwood officials said they are focusing on literacy in elementary schools to make up reading loss, and added STEM and career pathway programs in other grades. They have a social worker and counselor in each building and have supports for families.
Troy Schools received $8.1 million in ESSER funding, of which about 62% has been spent.
Troy assistant superintendent Michael Moore said Troy City Schools has continued to use the ESSER funding to support student learning and student learning loss. This includes instructional tools, student assessment and diagnostic tools, online learning resources and staffing to provide support to students, he said.
“We continually evaluate the needs of our students in an effort to best meet their needs,” Moore said.
Troy has a 37-year, $87 million levy on the ballot this November to build four new school buildings. Moore said while ESSER funding has been helpful for students, it isn’t enough to address the needs for new facilities.