5 Ways to Use ESSER Funding to Transform Learning Spaces
- March 25, 2023
- Anthony Bowie
The September 2023 deadline to allocate ESSER II funding provided through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act is quickly approaching––here’s a reminder of the five ways to use ESSER funding to transform learning spaces in your school or district!
Since March 2020, the federal government has allocated roughly $190 billion to schools and districts through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. The deadline to allocate the first round of this funding was in September 2022, but schools still have until September 2023 to allocate funding from ESSER II and September 2024 to create a plan for ESSER III funding. The $122.7 billion allocated through ESSER III is the largest amount of federal funding given to schools for COVID-19 relief thus far, so it’s important that school leaders develop comprehensive plans to allocate these funds in a way that will best support student learning for years to come.
ESSER funding was originally designated to support K-12 schools as they navigated the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic and support students as they recovered pandemic learning loss. Today, many challenges still exist so to help maximize the impact that this funding can have on your district, here are five ways to use ESSER funding to transform learning spaces and facilities:
Competitive esports is a rapidly growing extracurricular, providing countless opportunities for students to engage academically and socially, improve social and emotional wellbeing, and even acquire scholarships for college. Schools can support emerging esports programs by utilizing ESSER funding for better esports technology, including gaming computers, headsets, and specialized controllers and keyboards. ESSER funding also offers an opportunity for schools to create or upgrade state-of-the-art esports facilities that include ergonomic chairs, durable tables and desks, and modular lounge furniture to support the needs of a growing esports team.
The pandemic made it clear that technology plays a crucial role in education. Schools can allocate ESSER funds to upgrade their technology infrastructure, including purchasing laptops, tablets, and other devices for students and teachers. Funding can also enable schools to invest in technology upgrades such as internet software and hardware to improve connectivity, assistive technology, or new technology aids for student instruction.
Safety and security continue to be top priorities for K-12 schools, and ESSER funds can be used to enhance school security measures and improve the safety of school buildings. Schools may use funds to install security cameras, upgrade doors and entry procedures, and improve lighting in and around school facilities. Additionally, schools can invest in mental health resources, such as counseling services and social-emotional learning programs, to advocate for the well-being of students and staff and support their safety, even outside of the classroom.
Designing equitable spaces requires the use of a variety of different furnishings so that students have the ability to choose the best furniture to align with their learning style. Some students may also benefit from an active learning environment that enables them to change their learning station throughout the day or as they shift to working on different subjects. Whether students prefer to sit, stand, swivel, or lounge, giving them access to many options allows flexibility, improves accessibility, and gives students the opportunity to choose the environment that’s best for them.
Modern classrooms centered around technology and equity require the flexibility to support a wide variety of student and educator needs. ESSER funding can be used to obtain flexible furniture pieces that allow for the transformation of learning spaces to meet changing requirements. Mobile furniture makes learning anywhere, anytime more accessible, and modular furniture pieces allow the flexibility to accommodate small groups, individual learning, or other active learning approaches in learning environments.
As school and district leaders make plans to allocate remaining ESSER funding over the next 18 months, it’s critical that they consider how these funds can best be utilized to expand educational opportunities. Choosing the best options for your school to transform learning spaces will not only support students and their needs today but will prove to be invaluable choices that positively affect generations of students to come.