Whidbey Island school districts are estimated to receive millions of dollars of federal funding from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to offset the costs of the coronavirus pandemic.
The COVID-19 relief package includes more than $122 billion for K-12 education. The bill says the money will be available until Sept. 30, 2023.
Washington state as a whole will be allocated $1,852,501,071 in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds from the stimulus package, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Education. The bill stipulates that the state allocates no less than 90 percent of the funds to school districts.
The funds can be used for things like buying masks for students and staff, paying for summer programs to address learning loss, replacing school windows and doors to improve indoor air quality and more.
However, school districts must reserve no less than 20 percent of the funds to address learning loss. The bill includes summer school, extended school days, after-school programs and other options to address the issue.
Oak Harbor Public Schools, the biggest district on the island, is estimated to receive almost $6.7 million, according to district Communications Officer Conor Laffey.
He said that the school district was considering after-school clubs, summer activities, credit retrieval programs, athletics, field trips and partnerships with community organizations for potential opportunities for students to make up what they lost in the last year.
The school district is also looking at HVAC upgrades, adding WiFi to some school buses and replacing mobile technology, he said, and is in the process of hiring more teachers, mental health counselors and paraeducators. District leaders also plan to hire more bus drivers.
Steve King, superintendent of the Coupeville School District, said his school district may receive almost $1.5 million. Like Oak Harbor, King said the school district was also looking at upgrades to HVAC systems and replacing technology because devices were used so much in the past year.
Besides their goal of helping students academically, King said the school district wanted to help them reconnect.
“During the pandemic, our students were forced to spend too much time on technology, indoors and away from their peers,” he wrote in an email.
“We are considering a number of options to reconnect students to one another, while relearning social skills through these activities.”
South Whidbey School District Superintendent Dr. Jo Moccia said she was told the school district would receive over $1 million.
She said school leaders will discuss plans to address learning loss throughout the spring at school board meetings. She expects to receive a template from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in mid-April.
The bill also includes $2.75 billion for private schools that enroll a “significant percentage” of low-income students to be distributed by governors. There is also $800 million earmarked for the U.S. Department of Education to identify and support students experiencing homelessness.