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How to Use CARES Act/ESSER/APR Funds for Your School District

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Author: Mike Walsh | CEO
How to Use CARES Act/ESSER/APR Funds for Your School District

Maximizing CARES Act/ESSER/APR Funds for Your School District

In the wake of COVID-19, school districts across the U.S. have made dramatic changes to the way students are educated. From remote and hybrid model classrooms to social distancing, masking and testing at in-person learning environments, schools are meeting new challenges daily — and these challenges carry an additional financial burden. But funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act can help to mitigate those expenses.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)[1], “The most significant funding for school districts under the CARES Act is the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER).”

[1] As of the November 20, 2020 update. Navigating the available funding and how to spend it isn’t always simple, which is why you should consult with your funding liaison or other experts before making any purchases.

What can ARP and ESSER funds be spent on?

Funds from ESSER and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) can, among other things, be used to pay for activities and supplies needed to prevent, prepare for and respond to impacts of COVID-19. Allowable expenses also include technology, updates to physical spaces and classrooms and support for remote and hybrid learners. These long-term improvements will benefit students and educators now and in the future.

Where should schools spend their funds?

Funds should be spent on technology for remote and digital learning, including:

  • Distance learning platforms that incorporate classroom instruction techniques, via conferencing or webinar software. These platforms can also incorporate eBooks, websites, podcasts, screen-sharing, chat and videos to create a multi-modal learning experience to suit many educational scenarios, including fully remote, hybrid, and in-person learning.
  • A Learning Management Systems (LMS), which tracks student outcomes and benchmarks, specifically, and can actively foster student engagement and embrace inclusivity
  • Equipment such as teleconferencing hubs, interactive displays and projectors to support video-assisted learning content. Whether animated or live-action, this can be supplemented with charts, images and text descriptions to suit any topic and serve a variety of learning styles.
  • Artificial reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). For remote and hybrid learners, this may signal a rising demand for and availability of VR, which constructs an entirely digital environment for the participant, and AR, which provides a digitally enhanced version of real images and video. These tools help students experience laboratory and fieldwork conditions in a way that feels hands-on and can provide new pathways to grasping complicated concepts or visualizing historical and geographical events.
  • Robust networking and Wi-Fi hubs. Connectivity will be crucial going forward. Improving your school’s networking capabilities will benefit every student and educator. Don’t be afraid to be creative. Hotspots in shared spaces where students can connect to collaborate in person or remotely will help increase excitement and engagement.

Technology can play a meaningful role in education, as it allows students to learn at their own pace and in their own style. They can also interact with subjects that might not otherwise be as interesting when presented solely on the page or via a lecture. Technology can also help students develop important the critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration skills they’ll need in the workplace. Additionally, students may relate better to teachers who are more technologically fluent.

According to the American University School of Education, “Students experience the digital divide in education across the U.S. Four major outcomes can result from less access to digital technology, according to the Digital Divide Council:

  1. Low performance: Low-income families have less access to information that will advance their education.
  2. Competitive edge: Students with access to the internet will do better when they enter college due to universities embracing technology at an increasing rate.
  3. Convenience in learning: Privileged students have access to better devices and face less hurdles to complete their education.
  4. Different learning experiences: Students from low socioeconomic areas face more disadvantages and have to spend more hours to complete learning objectives.

These outcomes most impact students of color and those in low-income families. They also inhibit the long-term success of students.”

How can DGI help?

Zoom partnerships. Zoom for Education helps schools address educator concerns and improve student outcomes with secure video communication services for hybrid classrooms, office hours, administrative meetings and more. We can be on call for any Zoom-related issues across your district.

Consult on and deploy the best hardware for your remote, hybrid and in-person classroom teaching. Software isn’t the only part of an effective virtual learning strategy. The appropriate hardware, services and training also come into play, including document cameras, headsets, tablets, laptops/Chromebooks, webcams and microphones. The right equipment can drive better outcomes for students in and outside of the classroom.

Troubleshoot and offer guidance for current videoconferencing challenges. Your school district needs solutions deployed in a timely manner. DGI is a national leader in videoconference and AV solutions, and we’ll work with your district to launch and maintain your education strategy. 

Equip your school facilities with fun, welcoming and informative custom signage options that support full-time and hybrid plans. Your school district should safeguard the health and wellness of your students while reassuring and comforting even the youngest students in your classrooms.

Install protective shields, signage and temperature check devices to keep educators, administrators and students healthy and safe. We are prepared to equip your school with hardware, signage and devices to ensure a safe and healthy in-school experience, and seamless technological integration for all learners. DGI’s unique position as both a leading videoconferencing expert and a large-format printer allows us to help you adapt, regardless of the approach. DGI has implemented, enhanced and consulted on both remote-learning platforms and onsite solutions for K–12 education.

We also offer AV as a Service (AVaaS), which is an agreement offered exclusively through DGI Communications and our partner, TAMCO Shield, that bundles your AV solutions and support services into a convenient, ongoing monthly payment option.

This is similar to a retail subscription service and gives your school district the flexibility to stay technologically current without investing a large chunk of an already stressed annual budget on hardware with built-in obsolescence.

While your school district adapts to educating in the time of COVID-19, DGI’s expertise and innovative pricing can help maximize the impact of the funding available from the CARES Act/ESSER. Contact DGI today to learn more about our uncompromising commitment to quality and student-centered approach.

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Mike Walsh | CEO

Mike Walsh is a 15+ year veteran in the audio visual industry, bringing extensive knowledge of AV design, implementation, service and sales to DGI. Mike is high energy, providing leadership and driving innovation for the diverse divisions that make up our company. He’s also led a team that was recognized as the top integration firm serving educational markets in the country two years running.

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