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COVID-19 Protocols on School Buses Eligible for American Rescue Plan Funds

School districts may use American Rescue Plan funds to pay for social distancing and safety protocols on school buses, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) confirmed to School Transportation News, though how much funding for student transportation remains up in the air.

The table below outlines the funding being allocated to states from the American Rescue Plan ESSER funds. It does not include $10 billion from Health and Human Services that is to be used for COVID-19 testing and screening for schools, as well as $7.6 billion for special education programs and homeless students.

 

Alabama — $2,020,070,466
Alaska — $358,707,134
Arizona — $2,582,098,697
Arkansas — $1,253,227,833
California — $15,068,884,546
Colorado — $1,166,328,632
Connectiuct — $1,105,919,874
Delaware — $410,733,965
D.C. — $386,317,154
Florida — $7,038,246,438
Georgia — $4,249,371,244
Hawaii — $412,328,764
Idaho — $439,942,041
Illinois — $5,054,988,054
Indiana — $1,994,734,056
Iowa — $774,516,216
Kansas — $830,585,182
Kentucky — $2,084,773,157
Louisiana — $2,605,463,325
Maine — $411,303,282
Maryland — $1,951,136,802
Massachusetts — $,830,128,073
Michigan — $3,719,833,128
Minnesota — $1,320,645,901
Mississippi — $1,627,197,854
Missouri — $1,956,529,215
Montana — $382,019,236
Nebraska — $545,908,619
Nevada — $1,071,998,392
New Hampshire — $350,501,633
New Jersey — $2,764,587,703
New Mexico — $979,056,256
New York — $8,988,780,836
North Carolina — $3,599,191,706
North Dakota — $305,266,879
Ohio — $4,472,067,097
Oklahoma — $1,493,582,570
Oregon — $1,121,028,734
Pennsylvania — $4,996,953,151
Puerto Rico — $2,965,938,760
Rhode Island — $415,015,610
South Carolina — $2,112,051,487
South Dakota — $382,019,236
Tennessee — $2,487,638,081
Texas — $12,418,588,778
Utah — $615,526,070
Vermont — $285,164,138
Virginia — $2,109,490,751
Washington — $1,852,501,071
Vest Virginia — $761,417,928
Wisconsin — $1,540,784,854
Wyoming — $303,709,391

Total — $121,974,800,000

Less than a week after President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the DOE released the official amounts each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will receive in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding. The money will be available starting this month, DOE said.

A press release sent on Wednesday, however, divvies up nearly $122 billion, $8 billion less than first announced.

A DOE spokesperson clarified for STN the $122 billion does not include $7.6 billion allocated for special education programs, children and youth experiencing homelessness, Tribal educational agencies, Native Hawaiians, Alaska Natives, emergency assistance to non-public schools, and outlying areas such as American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Department of Health and Human Services also announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide $10 billion to states to support COVID-19 testing for K-12 teachers, staff and students in schools.

The education relief will be made available this month so schools may fund the necessary health and safety measures, consistent with the CDC guidance, to address the pandemic’s disruptions to teaching and learning in order to get students back in the classroom quickly and safely.

In addition to social distancing and safety protocols on buses, which were not defined in the award announcement, DOE said the funds could be also used to address the following:

  • Investing in resources to implement CDC’s K-12 operational strategy for in-person learning to keep educators, staff, and students safe; improving ventilation; purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE), and obtaining additional space to ensure social distancing in classrooms.
  • Avoiding devastating layoffs and hiring additional educators to address learning loss, providing support to students and existing staff, and providing sufficient staffing to facilitate social distancing.
  • Implementing strategies to meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students hit hardest by the pandemic, including through evidence-based interventions and critical services like community schools.
  • Funding crucial summer, afterschool, and other extended learning and enrichment programs.
  • Hiring additional school personnel, such as nurses and custodial staff, to keep schools safe and healthy.
  • Funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and devices for students without connectivity for remote learning and supporting educators in the effective use of technology.
  • Additional uses as allowed in the statute.

At this writing, the DOE had yet to respond to an STN question asking if transportation could also be eligible for funds in other provisions, such as avoiding devasting layoffs, Wi-Fi hotspots, and as a related service to providing summer enrichment programs.

“This pandemic has taken an extraordinary toll on students, parents, educators, and schools, and we know that our schools, students, and communities need help now to reopen safely and quickly, and to stay open,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, stated in the press release. “These funds from the American Rescue Plan and the extraordinary steps the department is taking to get these resources to states quickly will allow schools to invest in mitigation strategies to get students back in the classroom and stay there, and address the many impacts this pandemic has had on students—especially those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”


Related: School Districts Challenged to Offer COVID-19 Vaccines to All Staff
Related: National Congress on School Transportation Delayed Until 2025
Related: CDC Says Schools Can Reopen with Safety Mitigations, Vaccines Not Necessary
Related: CDC Confirms Masks Must Be Worn on Public, Private School Buses
Related: No Shoes, No Shirt, No Mask, No School Bus Service


As of Wednesday, Burbio’s K-12 School Opening Tracker reports that 21 states have 80 to 100 percent of their school districts operating in-person education. Meanwhile, 14 states are operating at in-person rates of 60 to 80 percent, with six states operating at 40 to 60 percent. Currently, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Washington are operating at 20 to 40 percent in-person, with California, Maryland and Oregon operating the least in-person rates at under 20 percent.

The National Association of Pupil Transportation cited the data in a recent email, stating that the number of students attending virtual learning dropped by 2.9 percent last week, bringing the total number of students attending virtual classes to 20.8 percent nationwide. As of this month, several governors are mandating schools, either K-5 or K-12, be reopened within the next couple of months.

Meanwhile, the DOE will also be providing best practices, guidance and support for safely returning to in-person instruction. On March 24, the DOE will hold an online event, the National Safe School Reopening Summit, that includes sessions on implementing CDC’s operational strategies to keep educators and staff safe, implementing CDC’s guidance, and supporting all students.

The DOE is also creating a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse that will help schools best utilize the relief funds. The clearinghouse will consist of best practices submitted by professionals currently working in the field.

In addition, it will release Volume 2 of the K-12 COVID-19 Handbook for educators in April. The handbook, for school districts and staff alike, will outline research-based strategies to address the impact COVID-19 is having students, educators and staff.

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