USD 383 is seeking public input on a budget plan for millions of dollars of federal funding coming to the district.

The Manhattan-Ogden school district was allocated over $7.25 million by Congress in March of 2021 intended to help elementary and secondary schools respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in various ways.

This is the third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency (ESSER III) funds distributed since 2020, provided this time as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). USD 383 previously received over $812,000 through the CARES Act and over $3.2 million as part of the CRRSA Act.

“The ESSER III award is a substantial amount of money that we’re working on trying to get feedback from community to build a budget plan for those moneys,” USD 383 Director of Business Services Lew Faust said on KMAN’s In Focus Friday.

There are numerous applications permitted for the use of the funds, though one requirement is that 20 percent of the grant must be used for supplemental learning programs to address pandemic-related learning loss.

“There’s 16 allowable use categories and there’s a kind of fundamental underlying caveat that the funds have to be used to prepare for, prevent or respond to the Coronavirus pandemic — it can’t just be used for anything, it has to be related to that,” says Faust. “Of course, there’s reporting and accounting requirements that we have to do […] and if for some reason it’s found that you use it for a non-allowable use then that expenditure becomes the financial liability of the district.”

Allowable use categories range from sanitation and cleaning activities and supplies, to additional social/emotional support for students, to technology upgrades. All funds awarded as part of ESSER III must be accounted for by September 30, 2024.

A steering committee is leading the process and plans to bring a local plan for the funds to the Board of Education for approval by May and submit that to the Kansas Department of Education by June 1. But to accomplish that, they’re seeking resident perspectives.

“One of the additions of the ESSER III compared to the two prior rounds is there’s a meaningful consultation component,” Faust says. “That is a requirement of the grant that you solicit imput from patrons within the district and the community about [their]priorities on how to spend the monies.”

The survey can be found online at the USD 383 website, also linked here. The survey went live on February 1st, and Faust says it consists of two different items.

“The first item has about nine components to it where you kind of rank priority and the second item is a rank order of some different things as far as the uses of the funds,” says Faust. “Takes probably five minutes or less to complete — very user friendly.”

In addition to English, the survey also comes in Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin and Pashto languages. Faust says the above link also includes further information and documents on the grant and process, encouraging people to contact him on the subject if needed.

Additionally, Faust says the district has a public informational meeting planned on a Tuesday as an opportunity for the public to learn more.

“We’re doing kind of a town hall meeting and inviting anybody in who wants more information about the ESSER III grant and the survey,” he says. “We’ll do a presentation at Rezac Auditorium at Manhattan High School West campus at 7 o’clock [on]February the 8th.”

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