New Jersey’s school leaders got their first look last week at the details for billions in federal pandemic aid heading to their public schools, according to a May 26 article in NJSpotlight.com.

The article included a searchable chart showing how much each district in the state would receive.

The money — the largest of three major school-relief packages from Washington since last year — is meant to bolster districts’ resources for a wide range of support and services for students during and after the pandemic, from extra academic programs to counselors to air-ventilation systems.

In a May 28 article in NJSpotlight.com, Janellen Duffy, founding director of JerseyCAN, an education reform group, described opportunities to spend the money wisely, highlighting the schools that she said had made “effective and forward-thinking resource decisions to support students and families.”

The state must submit its plan for ESSER III (also known as ARP — American Rescue Plan — ESSER) for state set-aside funding to the federal government by June 7, Duffy said, and New Jersey is required to solicit stakeholder feedback on this plan for funding.

Duffy praised the following schools and programs as “exemplars” in her article:

  • Logan Township School District, which has been deeply committed to equity and diversity for five years and has maximized all available funding sources, like pre-K expansion aid and a School Climate Transformation Grant with district and university partners to maintain this commitment amidst a cut in state aid;
  • Paul Robeson Charter School, which demonstrated forward thinking before the pandemic with a commitment to technology and one-to-one devices for students, which enabled them to pivot faster to remote learning. School leaders are also using student data to drive intensive planning to address students’ academic and enrichment needs. As a result, Paul Robeson was able to secure a grant to address learning loss in the first round the state offered;
  • College Achieve – Paterson, which is thinking strategically about federal relief funds and investing these dollars to avoid a fiscal cliff a few years down the line. This includes boosting educators’ pay in some instances, and the creation of a new summer program called Summer of a Lifetime, which will focus on college preparedness, Duffy said.

On May 25, School Board Notes published an article providing the New Jersey Department of Education’s guidance on how to apply for ARP – ESSER funds. The article can be found here.

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