While the article below applies to most states, we understand that there is less clarity on the availability and application of ESSER funds in others. This is the case in our home state of Wisconsin, where federal funding is currently at risk due to the actions of the Joint Committee on Finance.

The latest U.S. Department of Education guidance offers clarity on how school districts can use the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to communicate with families, staff and students—specifically around the return to school in fall 2021.

Districts may apply ESSER funds to ongoing communications and community outreach, as well as translation and interpretation services. The funds can also cover surveys to allow districts to better understand stakeholders’ perceptions, needs and concerns.

A successful school reopening strategy requires engaging the entire school community, including families of underserved students and parents of students with disabilities or local special education advisory committees. It also means engaging all stakeholders to create a safe and supportive learning environment for all students and staff at a time when COVID-19 remains a factor.

This guidance provides a path for school districts to create and implement comprehensive, equity-focused communication strategies around their return-to-school plans.

Looking ahead, this summer is a great time to ramp up school communication efforts and ensure families, staff, students and community members have the information they need ahead of the 2021-22 school year.

As a reminder, the Donovan Group has provided free templates and guidance to help educational leaders communicate during this challenging time in education.