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North Dakota schools receiving ESSER funding

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North Dakota schools have received, or will be receiving, a separate pot of money from federal COVID relief funds.

It’s called “ESSER,” which stands for "Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief."

State school superintendent Kirsten Baesler said the schools received $33 million in April, 2020, and $135.9 million in December, 2020, and will receive $305.3 million under the new American Rescue Plan.

"Ninety percent of the money will be delivered to local school districts," Baesler said. "Twenty percent of the money must be used for direct student services, to help them accelerate the learning recovery that our students have experienced because of learning loss, due to the COVID-19 lockdowns."

Baesler said she’s been meeting with local school leaders to try and tackle this issue. She presented a list of options to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"There are 19 ideas listed in there," Baesler said. "It's a menu of options.

Baesler said the list includes such things as high-impact tutoring, extended school year, summer school, and other things.

"School districts can use that as a guide to develop their own local plans on how they might best use their ESSER dollars," Baesler said.

Baesler said the remaining money can be used for a number of things.

"It can be used for transportation, child nutrition, teacher retention bonuses, construction," Baesler said. "If districts need to build more schools, they can acquire land and buildings."

Baesler said it is limited to one-time funding.

House Appropriations Committee chairman Jeff Delzer (R-Underwood) said he thinks ESSER money could be used to build and/or establish Career and Technical Education centers. Senate leadership is considering adding $60 million for CTE projects to the bonding bill, now pending in the Senate.

"The state can't tell the districts how to use it (ESSER)," Delzer said in an interview. "But they could use it, and get together with other school districts and set up CTE programs -- which are good programs."

Delzer said CTE programs should be set up to work with industries, and let the industries help.

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