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7 Ways to Spend Your School's ESSER Funds in 2022

March 30th, 2022 | 10 min. read

7 Ways to Spend Your School's ESSER Funds in 2022

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The COVID-19 pandemic changes the way students learn in new, unexpected ways. Luckily, a solution has been passed in the form of the Cares Act and the American Rescue Plan, otherwise known as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds

This unprecedented amount of funding is intended for schools to help students and teachers catch up after two years of learning loss caused by the pandemic. ESSER funds may go to a variety of solutions for school improvement over the next two years. 

These school improvements include (but are certainly not limited to) education technology, mental health services, additional training for teachers, improvements to infrastructure, air quality, high-quality furniture and much more. 

Here at Egyptian Workspace Partners, we know it's easy to waste money on outdated education furniture. That's why we help you design inspiring educational spaces, so your students are engaged, active learners in the classroom and beyond. 

In this article, we'll break down exactly what ESSER funds are, and when they expire. Then, we'll take a look at seven ways you can spend your ESSER funds, everything from designing for wellbeing to incorporating collaboration technology into your classroom.

Still have questions about how to spend your ESSER funds? Connect with a Workspace Partner today!

What are ESSER Funds?

ESSER stands for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund. This significant funding was included in three recent funding packages signed into law in 2020 and 2021. 

School districts can spend their ESSER funds on any use authorized under the following:

When Do ESSER Funds Expire?

ESSER funds provided by the CARES Act of March 2022 must be obligated by September 30, 2022. With that in mind, the money doesn't need to be spent right away. These funds must be committed to a specific purpose within 120 calendar days after the end of each applicable obligation deadline.

In addition, funds from the second and thirds round of funding (November 2020 and March 2021, respectively) must be spent by September 30, 2023. 

7 Ways to Spend Your ESSER Funds

1. Choose Social-Emotional Learning Tools, Furnishings & Products

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Physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing is crucial to productivity from adolescence to senior year. It establishes the ability to make meaningful connections with individuals and groups. Extracurricular activities and peer-to-peer interaction are imperative for social-emotional development. 

Due to the pandemic, students were forced to change their routines, making it difficult to have necessary interactions that forge the foundation for lifelong mental health and lasting relationships. So, what can be done to help students continue on the path to empathy, awareness, and emotional intelligence?

It starts with creating learning environments that inspire students to be curious, creative and maintain a sense of security. This requires learning where students can gather together and form community, sharing their ideas and feelings so they may process. 

Design Tips

2. Address Learning Loss and Accelerate Learning

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Learning loss caused by the pandemic has hit communities throughout the US, with some educators and experts fearing the long-term damage of this time spent away from in-person school. Now, there is an urgent conversation happening for how to best help them catch up.  

Breakout groups and accelerated learning environments will help students catch up. For these spaces, choosing configurable furniture that will allow students to gather together to focus attention on the teacher will establish a sense of community and create space where listening and sharing are possible. 

Design Tips

  • Use the Mobile Teacher Workstation II to serve as the focal point for space with configurable desks nearby
  • Provide whiteboard tops so students can work out problems and share their processes to retain knowledge
  • Establish a sense of belonging with furniture that encourages group sharing to create openness 

3. Offer Inclusive Spaces for All Students

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In order for students to succeed, they must feel included. Learning gaps caused by COVID-19 only widened what already existed between different socioeconomic groups. COVID brought problems with traditional models of learning to the forefront, leaving groups of students behind. 

Fortunately, this time has brought an awareness of the needs of students. Without attention being paid to underserved communities, students all over the country are being left behind. The past two years have been a good reminder of how we can improve the future of education for everyone going forward. 

When considering possible solutions for creating equity among different groups of students so that all may thrive, there are obviously a lot of factors to consider. One is the importance of conscious room design for educational environments. 

Classrooms that have the physical tools to facilitate group learning and enhanced discovery are more likely to produce successful students. Maker spaces provide the tools necessary for students to collaborate and find a sense of community and autonomy at the same time. 

Design Tips

  • Opt for Compass solutions to establish student creativity and autonomy while allowing for inclusion and collaboration
  • Provide five-foot-tall porcelain steel whiteboards for expanded accessibility for all 
  • Use the highly versatile Hierarchy Creator Desks in a number of ways to fit your needs

4. Design Environments that Foster Active Learning 

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Hands-on learning is also sometimes referred to as active learning or experimental learning. It's the method of allowing students to tinker, play and creatively solve problems in ways that are appropriate for their age groups. For young learners, this may mean simple activities like finger painting. 

For older learners, this can mean lab work and STEM study that involves creating, building and experimenting. Hands-on learning and STEM classes will better prepare students for the economy of tomorrow.

But because of COVID-19, fewer students had the ability to learn in person due to safety concerns and high community spread of the virus. We are just beginning to learn the effects of the varied schedules and new routines of our nation's students. 

Active learning environments will help students catch up and stay engaged after two years of virtual and remote learning. Flexible furniture and active pieces facilitate group thinking, working together and retaining practices through practice and study. 

Design Tips

  • Use porcelain steel surfaces and desks so those working on reading and writing skills can practice with each other
  • Allow for space, movement, ample storage and flexibility with Compass Makerspace Tables and Cabinets
  • Provide good ergonomic chairs to help with back support and body fatigue

5. Provide Safety Solutions for COVID-19 and Future Outbreaks

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COVID positivity rates continue to decline as vaccinations rise. Safety measures will need to remain in place to help curb the spread of virus and prevent future outbreaks. There are three types of learning to consider: hybrid learning, in-person learning and online learning

In the event of a future outbreak, a hybrid model classroom would allow students to benefit most from being in the classroom physically to learn safely at school, while students who are able to learn remotely from the comfort of home. 

Innovation in the classroom means that students and teachers can have fun while being conscious about their own safety. You will need durable, cleanable and lightweight collaborative pieces, as well as protective items like dividers so teachers and students can learn effectively, and have fun while doing so. 

For communities whose cases are on the rise at any given moment, a school district may choose distance learning at the safest temporary option. User-friendly tools can help parents, teachers and students continue to work and learn from home without missing a step. 

Design Tips

  • Offer simple tools like remote learning software, an interactive display, a webcam and furniture that is lightweight, mobile and easy to clean
  • Create an 'in-the-room' feeling with interactive smartboards for hybrid classes where some students learn at home and some learn remotely
  • Install air filtration systems to improve air quality and minimize the spread of disease

6. Implement Educational Technology for Remote Learning

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Research over the last two years has shown that remote learning has further widened existing gaps between students. This means some students fell behind, due to a lack of access to the tools needed for remote learning. 

A reported 15 million students lack reliable internet connection and the devices needed to continue learning from home. Although remote learning presented its challenges for teachers, parents and students, it has been utilized by nearly half of American families.

An upside to remote learning is that it may expand future opportunities for continued learning online in the future.  This means that learning at a distance can now be used for future events such as inclement weather days or distance learning when necessary. 

Going forward, interactive educational technology is a necessity. Access to internet, mobile learning devices and updated educational software are necessary tools for schools to continue to educate students effectively even distance learning is an option in the future. 

Design Tips

  • Use interactive whiteboard technology like smart boards so students can actively partake in lessons and presentations 

7. Create Engaging Extracurricular Environments

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With the future comes great possibility. Each school, teacher, student and parent now has a greater awareness of what they need to succeed in learning. From widespread internet access to readily available STEAM courses, society must now meet these students' needs to create a better tomorrow. 

STEAM refers to a set of subjects that help prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow. It's an acronym for science, technology, engineering, art and math. Helping students have access to great STEAM classes is necessary for their success. 

Implementing STEAM labs, collaboration spaces and art rooms will help students discover their talents, find a sense of self-esteem and enjoy coming to school. The arts help students discover their own talents and skills and serve as an outlet to process and express complex emotions. 

Design Tips

  • Opt for maker space tables and cabinets so students can access materials independently and dive deep into the creation process with wide durable surfaces for creating. 
  • Provide students with other modes of visual creation like smart boards to help them brainstorm and think out loud, while connecting them to new ways of expression

Still Not Sure How to Spend Your ESSER Funds?

There are so many possible ways to spend your ESSER funds. For this reason, it can be overwhelming to choose how you're going to spend the money because your decision impacts your students, teachers, employees and parents. 

But, when you buy furniture, you're investing in the success and wellbeing of your students. Furniture can be expensive, but it's a worthwhile investment because it will benefit your district for years to come, especially if you invest in flexible, high quality solutions. 

At Egyptian Workspace Partners, we have a trusted network of authorized education furniture dealers. We help you make final choices, place orders and even install your new furniture, so you can create a classroom environment that promotes continuous learning and development

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