Boise Back to School

Lindsey Grengs passes out workbooks to students in her fifth- and sixth-grade combination class on the first day of the school year at Taft Elementary School in Boise on Aug. 16.

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Idaho is receiving its final round of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to support K-12 schools and students impacted by the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Monday it had approved Idaho’s plan for the funds. The department distributed more than $146 million to the state on Monday. A total of more than $440 million has been distributed to Idaho K-12 schools through the federal funding bill.

The department distributed two-thirds of plan funds earlier this year, in which Idaho received more than $293 million on March 24.

The plan details how the state will use the funds to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most, particularly those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am excited to announce approval of Idaho’s plan,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a Monday news release. “It is heartening to see, reflected in these state plans, the ways in which states are thinking deeply about how to use American Rescue Plan funds to continue to provide critical support to schools and communities, particularly as we look ahead to the upcoming academic year.”

Top priorities in Idaho’s plan include using data to identify and employ strategies to assist students who lost instructional time during the pandemic and to reconnect with students who have disengaged from the state’s education system, the release said. This could include intensive tutoring, extended learning time interventions (during or before and after school) and focused instruction for one subject during vacation breaks.

“I am pleased that Idaho’s plan has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education. The plan will ensure that our schools and districts receive the funding they need to address unfinished learning, behavioral health challenges and other impacts from the pandemic,” Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said in the release.

School districts also are encouraged to expand partnerships with nonprofits and other community organizations to implement afterschool programs. The state also will provide technical assistance to support districts in using federal funds to adopt a community school model.

“Throughout this process, we’ve placed high priority on giving districts and schools both the resources and flexibility to address local needs, as well as assistance identifying and engaging the students most impacted by the pandemic so that we can get them back on track,” Ybarra said in the release.

The release notes Idaho will use a portion of state reserve funds from the emergency fund to support rural districts and the Bureau of Educational Services for the Deaf and the Blind.

Kurt Liebich, president of the Idaho State Board of Education, said in the release that the board was focused on three priorities of the plan: K-4 literacy, grades 5-9 math, and credit recovery for high school students.

“We look forward to working with school districts and charter schools as they work to develop their local plans and put them into action,” Liebich said in the release. “These federal resources will go a long way in helping our students recover what they lost because of the massive disruption the pandemic caused to our education system.”

The deadline for each local education agency to submit their use of funds plans is Oct. 1.

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