How to weigh in on $ 114 million in COVID-19 relief money


Anyone in Knox County can share their take on how Knox County schools are expected to spend nearly $ 114 million from the third federal COVID-19 relief program.

School districts across the country are looking to better spend this one-time influx of money.

Congress approved a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief program in March, known as the American Rescue Plan. Outside of the global package, $ 130 billion for K-12 education, possibly the biggest federal investment in history.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is ESSER?

There have been three federal COVID-19 relief packages and each has led to money for schools. While each relief program has had a different name, the money for schools has very similar names.

ESSER stands for Emergency Aid Fund for Elementary and Secondary Schools. Each package has a number: for example, the nearly $ 114 million is called “ESSER 3.0” because this is the third round of this funding.

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How can the money be spent?

Districts have a lot of flexibility with this money, but Knox County schools want to make sure that no matter what, there is intentionality and sustainability, Academic Director and Deputy Superintendent Jon Rysewyk told Knox News.

The money can be used for several things, including improving facilities that help schools stay open, academic programs that help students fill gaps in learning, and programming to improve student outcomes, a Rysewyk said.

The district has some academic data but is still waiting for more data. Nonetheless, Rysewyk said the district wants to ensure that students who are lacking now and students who have historically had gaps have the support they need to be successful.

Rysewyk said there are several options for doing this, including summer programs or additional private lessons.

“How do you focus over the next 12-24 months to close those gaps and get back to a baseline?” Rysewyk said. “And then how do you look at these historic underachieving groups that already had gaps to try to fill them? And then as a district we want to be good stewards of that and say ‘how do we envision this for make sure we are planning the next three to five years to be able to have an impact even after COVID. “

When should the district spend the money?

School districts are required to submit a plan for how they plan to spend ESSER money to the State Department of Education by Aug. 27, Rysewyk said. The school board will vote on the proposed plan in August before the district submits it to the state.

Districts must allow the public to influence the money that has to be spent.

Knox County schools have until September 2024 to spend the ESSER 3.0 money, district spokeswoman Carly Harrington said.

How have Knox County schools spent the other COVID-19 relief money?

The district spent the majority of the first round of money on buy Chromebooks for their 1: 1 initiative where every student has a tablet or laptop.

The second installment of money, which amounts to approximately $ 50.8 million, is scheduled to continue the 1: 1 program, fill virtual teacher positions and purchase new textbooks and materials.

How can I share my point of view?

The school district has an online survey that will be available until 11:59 p.m. Thursday. You can find the link on

The district also holds public feedback meetings. The district hosted a Thursday where participants broke into small groups to discuss priorities. The conversations were facilitated by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching.

The second meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Sarah Simpson Professional Development Technology Center, 801 Tipton Ave.


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