Lodi Unified School District has received nearly $38 million in Elementary/Secondary School Relief funding over the past year, and last week it received word it would receive a third round of financial assistance.
Dr. Robert Sahli, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum, told Lodi Unified’s Board of Education on July 13 that another $71.5 million in ESSER funds will be allocated through the American Recovery Plan Act.
Unlike other grants and funds allocated by the ARP and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, Sahli said the district will not be pressured to use the monies received from ESSER III before an immediate deadline.
“We have three years to utilize these funds,” he said. “The prior CARES Act funds were ‘hurry up and use it.’ This gives us some breathing room to make good use of these funds and spread it our over three years.”
Sahli said district staff will hold a series of meetings to discuss uses for the funds with the board, community stakeholders and employee groups, among others.
The district must submit its plan to the San Joaquin County Office of Education by the end of September. The SJCOE will then submit the plan to the ARP in order for the district to receive funds by November, Sahli said.
Allowable uses of the funds include addressing the needs of low-income children, students with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, homeless students and youths in foster care.
Funds can also be used on training and development for teachers on sanitizing and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases, as well as planning for long-term closures and educational technology. In addition, funds can be used for mental health service and support or planning summer school and after-school programs, among others.
Of the total $71.5 million allocated to the district, at least 20%, or $14 million, must be used to address learning loss through programs such as such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive after-school programs or extended school year programs.
Sahli said the funding could be used to hire additional staff in the coming months, but what happens after the grant allocation ends is uncertain.
“The challenge is whenever we bring on staffing and the funding ends, what happens to the staffing? We will have a year’s window to look ahead,” he said. “There’s always natural attrition, but we can also try during that process of three years to seek additional funding for those services if we feel that they need to continue.”
Trustee George Neely said he hoped a large number of the district’s community members attend the meetings to discuss use of the funds.
“I’m really interested in seeing your plan when you finalize this,” he said. “I guess it’s our plan. It’s never been my experience while I’ve been here, that when we try to get stakeholder input, we’ve never had any problem at all in getting all in one room. You can see this meeting tonight, we’re not even full.”
Morada Middle School teacher Lisa WIlkins said she hoped the board and other stakeholders would consider placing transportation for underprivileged students and an extended summer school session to help those falling behind at the top of a priority list of discussions.
“Summer school, we have a lot of kids enrolled,” she said. “I think we need to reimagine it. We need to get more people to buy in, especially in the high school. Trying to cram a year’s worth of school in 24 days is too much. Even a semester in 12 classroom days is too much. And we need it in middle school to prepare them for high school. We need it in elementary school to make up for learning loss.”
No action was taken during the ARP discussion, but the district will announce when stakeholder meetings will be held.