The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act includes the ARP ESSER Fund, which allocates $126 billion to K-12 schools. These funds give districts and schools the resources to implement recommended best practices for K-12 reopening and staying open.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) requires school districts to publish a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services on its website within 30 days of receiving their allocated funds. Below is a breakdown of the requirements and topics you should include in your plan.
Complying with Plan Requirements
The ED has established a set of requirements for each district in writing their reopening and continuity plans. These requirements include integrating best practices and recommendations, engaging your community in feedback, and updating your plan as the pandemic changes. Plans must be published on the district’s website in a reasonable timeline as determined by your state education agency (SEA).
“Because safe return to and continuity of in-person instruction is fundamental to addressing the lost instructional time and disengagement that many students have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that these plans contain precise information about how [districts] will focus on prevention and mitigation of COVID-19 specific to their communities, in order to keep students, staff, and families healthy and to avoid future shutdowns.”
ED Interim Final Requirements, ARP ESSER Funding
The guidance and best practices from local, state, and federal health departments and agencies detailed in Raptor’s Guide to K-12 Safe Reopening: Strategies for ARP ESSER Funding to Protect Your School was developed in collaboration with experts, public health officials, and educators across the nation and should be considered when writing your reopening plan. Topics include how you will address the:
- necessity to keep those with exposure risk off campus through health screenings and to facilitate prompt contact tracing
- decline in social, emotional, and mental health that can result in an increase in violent behavior
- unfinished learning/learning loss that will require additional resources to help students return to grade level
- planning for or implementing activities during long-term closures, including providing meals to eligible students and providing technology for online learning
The ED also requires districts to seek public input from various stakeholders, including but not limited to, students, families, teachers, principals, school staff, and school and district administrators. When applicable, the district is also required to have meaningful consultation with Tribes, civil right organizations, and those who represent children with disabilities, children in foster care or experiencing homelessness, English learners, and underserved children.
A third requirement is to review your district plan at least every six months to determine if any changes are necessary. The plan must continue to address the pandemic and include CDCs latest recommendations, as applicable to your district and community.
Finally, the plan must be accessible, including to parents and guardians with limited English proficiency and those with disabilities.
What to Include in Your Safe Return & Continuity Plan
Your plan must detail specifics about how you will prevent COVID-19 transmission to keep your students, staff, and communities safe, including how you will follow the recommended guidance from the CDC. Your plan should detail, at a minimum, how your district will:
- address staff and student social, emotional, and mental health needs
- keep students, staff, and the school community safe and well
- screen students, staff, and visitors for COVID-19 exposure risk
- facilitate prompt contact tracing to meet the CDC key mitigation strategy
- maintain social distancing and proper hygiene practices
- screen, manage, and track volunteers and tutors
- prepare for, respond to, and recover from incidents
- ensure the continuity of services
Note that your SEA may require you to include additional information so it’s critical you continue to monitor your SEA’s website to ensure compliance.
Learn More in Our Strategies and Funding Guide
For a breakdown of each topic and additional information on how to strategically maximize COVID-19 relief funds to respond to the pandemic and implement solutions that will help build and maintain a safe learning environment for years to come, download our Guide to K-12 Safe School Reopening: Strategies for ESSER Funding to Protect Your School.