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How Iowa schools are planning to use the latest COVID-19 relief dollars

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) - School districts across the state are planning how they will use the latest round of COVID relief funds. School districts won't be able to implement these plans until July 1 when the Iowa Department of Education opens up the application.

This funding is the third round of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) that is a part of the American Rescue Plan. Iowa was set to receive nearly $775 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding for Pre-K-12 schools in this round.

Waterloo Schools were allocated nearly $34 million, and have ideas for what it will go toward.

"I think education has changed forever because of COVID," Waterloo Schools Superintendent Dr. Jane Lindaman said.

Teachers and students have had to learn how to handle the pandemic, use technology, and be safe in school.

The majority of the COVID-19 relief dollars need to go toward addressing the learning loss that students experienced during the pandemic.

"I do believe that we will use that money to move us forward, not only to recover but to accelerate some of the initiatives and the programs that we have so I think we're going to put the money to really good use in Waterloo," Dr. Lindaman said.

For summer school, the district is looking to add programs and staff members to help with the recovery efforts.

At the elementary level there are nearly 1,000 students enrolled for summer school, when there are normally only a few hundred.

"We'll have teams of teachers coming in all summer long to work on some curriculum, some planning, and some assessment work," Dr. Lindaman said.

Infrastructure changes to buildings in order to increase health safety is another thing the money could go to.

Technology is another big topic, as virtual learning will continue to be an option. However, the virtual learning format will be a bit different, especially for the younger students.

"For example, at the elementary level, it will actually be live instruction from one of our teachers," she said, "We had used a software application program and we just found that that was not the best way to educate our littlest learners."

Waterloo Schools received about $2.4 million in the first round, which went toward masks and safety equipment. The second allocation was about %15 million to continue paying for PPE and address learning loss. This third round of $34 million will focus in on the learning recovery.

You can find a full list of Iowa school districts and their allocation of the ESSER dollars on the Iowa Department of Education Website.

Waverly-Shell Rock Schools received about $1.2 million. According to Superintendent Ed Klamfoth, the district plans to hire additional support and professional intervention staff for their k-4 buildings. That includes one teacher and eight support staff.

Hudson Schools received a little less than larger districts, coming in at a little over $419,000. Superintendent Tony Voss says the majority of it will go toward their summer school programs.

The third round of ESSER dollars will not expire until September 2024. Until then, the money can be moved around and put into different areas that the districts feel it would be useful.

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Diego Hernandez

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