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ESSER in Action – March 2023 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 have fine-tuned our plans and identified additional opportunities to make impactful investments in technology, curriculum and staff retention.

Omaha Public Schools became a 1-to-1 technology district with a rollout of student iPads in the fall of 2020. To continue providing this important tool to our students, we are purchasing a device refresh, which includes 10,000 new iPads put into rotation for the upcoming school year.

“Being a 1-to-1 district gives students increased access to personalized learning opportunities and improves engagement and collaboration,” Executive Director of Information Management Services Bryan Dunne said. “Making sure our technology is up-to-date keeps our students on the path to success. By making this valuable investment in devices for our students, we ensure equal access to important educational opportunities and resources.”

We have also targeted ESSER funds for important curriculum updates. This includes elementary and high school science, secondary English language arts and reading, and K-12 social studies. ESSER funds will also support expanded computer science and technology K-12 learning to meet requirements mandated by the Nebraska Legislature.

“We are excited about these steps forward. We are committed to delivering high-quality instructional materials for our students,” Chief Academic Officer Susan Christopherson said. “Newer materials best align to current content standards for a class. They make learning more relevant and create connections as students see themselves in lessons. New materials better adapt to students' learning by offering built-in opportunities to go deeper on a topic, or benefit from additional support.”

Managing staffing needs continues to be a priority for Omaha Public Schools. We will continue to invest ESSER-II and ESSER-III funds in staff retention stipends for the remainder of the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years.

“This stipend has helped Omaha Public Schools compete with our neighboring districts in attracting and retaining mid-career teachers,” Chief Officer of Operations and Talent Charles Wakefield said. “It demonstrates our district’s commitment to our employees recognizing the impact of the pandemic on their day-to-day work.  We recognize that our staff is our most valuable resource, and we want to treat them as such.”

ESSER funds reached school districts in three rounds: ESSER-I, ESSER-II and ESSER-III. ESSER-I spending ended in September 2022.

As of Feb. 28, 2023, Omaha Public Schools has spent 54% of our ESSER-II grant total. This amounts to $46.2 million. Our district is confident this spending plan is on-track. With seven months remaining, over 99 percent of these funds are spent or committed. ESSER-II funds expire in Sept. 2023.

As of Feb. 28, 2023, we have spent 12% of our ESSER-III grant total. This amounts to $21.5 million. We are preparing an amended budget for ESSER-III spending that includes these updates and will go before the Board of Education on April 3. These funds must be fully allocated by Sept. 2024.

“We have worked thoughtfully as a district to allocate our ESSER funds to areas where we can make a clear impact,” Deputy Superintendent Matthew Ray said. “Our students are already benefitting from ESSER-funded initiatives, including expanded tutoring and academic support, building upgrades and internet-connected devices. As we identified additional opportunities for investing these funds, we have adjusted the plan and feel confident in our path forward through 2024.”


See more ESSER in Action updates: