North Dakota schools receive federal funding to address learning loss

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North Dakota’s Department of Public Instruction recently received about $43 million of federal relief funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund, or ESSER.

The agency is asking for public input on how to spend it.

DPI is inviting North Dakotans to comment on its spending proposals, and offer suggestions on how to use the money. Congress approved three aid packages for the nation’s schools, most of which went directly to districts, but a portion was reserved for statewide needs.

The funding is meant to help students who experienced learning loss and other adverse effects because of the pandemic. DPI Assistant Superintendent Laurie Matzke explains some of what’s being proposed.

“Free tutoring to students, we’re going to be offering increased opportunities to expand upon our current summer school and afterschool programming. We’re going to expand on our MTSS which is our mental health supports to students, so that is our greatest focus is really how can we help students rebound back from this pandemic,” Matzke said.

The department will submit a state plan for using the federal aid on June 7, but the agency will accept comments after that, too.

The agency’s proposals can be found here, which includes contact information for submitting a comment.

While some of that ESSER money goes toward DPI, 90 percent of it goes directly to school districts.

Bismarck Public Schools received about $21 million in the latest round of funding. Business Manager Darin Scherr says 20 percent of the funds will go toward addressing learning loss, and the rest will address space needs.

“What we want to use that money for is addressing capacity issues across the district. So for example, to allow people to spread out. For example, it’s pretty tight at Legacy, we may need to do a small addition there, but none of that has been allocated yet other than we plan to address space issues in all of our buildings,” Scherr said.

Scherr says the planning is still in its early stages and once BPS has proposals, they will also seek community input on the plans.

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