With Maine set to receive more than $183 million for schools from the latest federal coronavirus relief package, there is much discussion on how the funding should be used. 

Kelli Deveaux, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Education, said schools can get up to four times the amount they received from the two previous rounds of coronavirus relief funding in the spring and fall of 2020.

The money is from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, through the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. The funding each school administrative unit receives depends on its Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I 2020 data.

“This is a significant investment in helping Maine schools continue to safely provide education and resources for their students,” Deveaux said, “while ensuring the well-being of the entire school community.”

Applications for the federal funding are expected to be available by the end of January. School districts will be able to budget and spend the full amount of money until Sept. 30, 2023, according to Deveaux.

Previously, schools only had until Dec. 30, 2020, to spend the money they had received.

Although school districts are partly funded through property taxes, districts were not expecting the increased costs created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Central Maine schools are already trying to figure out the best uses for the money.

“The CRRSA Act urges schools to prioritize the use of ESSER II funds for addressing student needs, ascertaining and addressing learning loss, preparing schools for reopening and repairing and upgrading air quality systems in school buildings,” Deveaux said.

Other possible ways schools can use the money, she said, are for purchasing educational technology, providing mental health services and supports, training staff members on sanitation, purchasing cleaning supplies and through activities that help underserved or disadvantaged students.

Such activities could include meal programs or providing extra school care, like before- and after-school programs.

Before the winter break, the Winthrop Public School system put a cap of 100 on the number of students who could learn remotely. The limit was based on a lack of resources and teachers to accommodate the increased need for services.

The district hired five teachers to teach remotely, but as Superintendent James Hodgkin pointed out, there was not enough money in the budget to keep them past the CRF expiration date of Dec. 30. He had to include that expense in the 2020-21 budget in order to keep them on staff when the funds expired.

Gardiner-area schools in the Maine Administrative School District 11 have also put some of their CRF funds into making air quality improvements, according to Superintendent Patricia Hopkins.

“(Maine is) slated to get $183 million, and that’s four times more than what (it) received before,” Hopkins told the MSAD 11 board of directors Thursday night. “Last time, we got $389,000. This time, we are expected to get $1.5 million.”

Hopkins said she would like to use MSAD 11’s additional funding to hire more staff as students transition to an in-person learning model. She also suggested spending some of the money on learning resources that can help make up for lost studies created by remote learning.

“I personally would like to really target lots of learning for students and find ways to target RTI (response to intervention) on various programs to better support students as they transition back and deal with learning loss,” Hopkins said at the meeting.

The Regional School Unit 2 board of directors discussed Thursday night the option of using some of the district’s remaining CRF money — which was to have expired Dec. 30, but will now expire in June — on tutoring services.

RSU 2 school officials said the tutoring services have been beneficial in helping students organize their remote learning and set academic and personal goals.

Once the process opens in January, applications are expected to be completed by the middle of February. Officials said they expect to receive the additional federal funding in the spring.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.