Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER)
On May 11, 2021, Superintendent Anthony Hamlet and District leaders outlined priorities for the use of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER) dispensed through the American Rescue Plan and two earlier COVID-19 related relief bills. With $11.1 million of ESSER I funds used to purchase student and staff devices, personal protective equipment, and sanitary supplies, $150.1 million remains through ESSER II and American Rescue Plan ESSER III to support the District’s needs exacerbated by the pandemic.
Bolstering Current Investments through ESSER II
The COVID-19 pandemic forced unplanned budget disbursements toward technology to support becoming a 1:1 device district, 220 air purifiers and replacement filters to improve ventilation, and new communication tools, such as Talking Points, to improve two-way parent engagement, particularly with the District’s English Language Learners. By way of its request through ESSER II, the District aims to utilize approximately $50.1 million to sustain and enhance its current investments by expanding its wireless technology infrastructure and assets, improving indoor air quality, and advancing summer learning programming. Close to 3,000 students have signed up for the District’s Summer Boost program designed to stem the COVID-19 slide.
ESSER III Spurs Innovative Planning to Address Learning Loss
With approximately $100 million earmarked for PPS through American Rescue Plan ESSER III funds, District officials outlined future investment opportunities in instructional materials, teacher and staff professional development, and external partnerships supporting families and providing wrap-around services to schools, including trauma informed practices and social-emotional learning.
Board Establishes Stakeholder Engagement Process for District Use of ESSER III Funds
The Board of Directors and Superintendent Anthony Hamlet both agree the work ahead will require the collective engagement of the community. On May 26, 2021, the Board approved a resolution that establishes a 21-member ad-hoc Public Stakeholder Advisory Committee to provide recommendations on initiatives aligned to ESSER III guidelines, hold public engagement forums, and give feedback to the District on the plan to be submitted to the Board for approval in September.
Per the resolution, the Public Stakeholder Advisory Committee will include representation from various stakeholder groups, including:
- Nine members selected by the Board of Directors, each choosing a current parent of a PPS student, representing their District;
- Four members to be appointed by the Superintendent from both the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and Pittsburgh Administrators Association (with each group selecting two members);
- Five members selected by the Superintendent from among the following internal district stakeholder groups, including but not limited to the following: Student Advisory Council, Homeless Education, Early Childhood Advisory Council, Local Task Force, and/or Equity Advisory Panel;
- Three members of the Board of Directors to be appointed by the Board President, one of which will include the Chair of the Business/Finance Committee; and
- A chair of the committee appointed by the Board President from among the parent representatives.
In addition to the work of the Public Stakeholder Advisory Committee, the District’s extensive community engagement process will begin in June with teachers, school leaders and school-based staff. It is anticipated that a proposal will be presented to the Board this August for submission to the Pennsylvania Department of Education in September for approval.