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ESSER in Action – Dec. 2022 Update

Omaha Public Schools is committed to providing regular updates on our use of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.

Through the past few months, we pursued new opportunities to invest ESSER funds. Many focus on staff development and recruitment.

We are focused on building our teacher pipeline to address staffing shortages. Omaha Public Schools has targeted a significant amount of ESSER funds to support current and future staff in partnership with UNO.

This partnership includes full scholarships to select students who commit to teaching at Omaha Public Schools full-time after graduation. It also helps students with bachelor's degrees get certified to teach in high-demand areas. Thirdly, our district is investing in current teachers to help them earn graduate credit hours or qualify to teach Dual Enrollment classes.

“The programs supported by ESSER funds are already making an impact. We have 24 students enrolled in the Teacher Scholar Academy who will teach with us post-graduation,” Human Resources Coordinator Erin Perry said. “We also have 34 student teachers who received stipends this year joining us as full-time teachers after winter recess.”

These programs are awaiting final approval from the Department of Education for ESSER fund allocation.

Executive Director of Academic Recovery Susanne Cramer introduced our new three-part strategy for academic support and tutoring. School-based tutoring began in October. Staff worked with families to identify students who may benefit from the additional support. The Omaha Public Schools Foundation Kids Club and Collective for Youth will provide community-based tutoring for students enrolled in those programs beginning in December and expand as more tutors are available.

Online on-demand tutoring services will be provided by Paper and will officially launch in Jan. 2023. Once rolled out, students in grades 3-12 can connect to a tutor via a chat-based interface. Our students can access the service through Clever integration seven days a week until 10 p.m.

“The intent of the strategy is to offer options,” Cramer said. “If a student is unable to attend after school or has work, we also have this online option. We're fortunate to have this customizable strategy that supports our students and families in a way that works for their needs.”

ESSER funds reached school districts in three rounds: ESSER-I, ESSER-II and ESSER-III. ESSER-I spending ended in September 2022. Of the $23 million authorized, our district spent 84% on student devices and connectivity, 11% on non-public schools as required by the grant guidelines and 5% on indirect costs and administration.

As of Oct. 31, 2022, Omaha Public Schools has spent 33% of our ESSER-II grant total. This amounts to $28.8 million. December 2022 staff stipend payments will come out of these funds. This is the second of three stipend payments for staff in the 2022-23 school year. Stipends will continue in the 2023-24 school year.

Our district is confident this spending plan is on-track. ESSER-II funds expire in Sept. 2024. With this deadline in mind, over 95% of the budget has been spent or committed to recovery initiatives. This includes internet access for student devices, updating out-of-date technology and Next Level Learning curriculum.

As of Oct. 31, 2022, we have spent 7% of our ESSER-III grant total. This amounts to $13.7 million. We have plans for most of the remaining grant, but more steps are necessary to commit to and disburse the funds. Additional priorities for ESSER-III spending include after school engagement activities, teacher home visits, infrastructure updates and supporting the well-being of students and staff. These funds must be fully allocated by Sept. 2024.

See the August update to the Board below.