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Cincinnati Public Schools announces plan for COVID-19 relief funds after seeking input from parents

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Posted at 10:51 PM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-19 12:10:46-04

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Public Schools starts Thursday, Aug. 19, and with nearly $300,000,000 in coronavirus relief funds in the bank, a plan on how to allocate that money was decided after close to 4,000 parents weighed in.

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER Funds, are meant to help schools respond to COVID-19.

The district got feedback from more than 4,000 parents before coming up with a plan to spend $202,000,000 in ESSER funds from the American Rescue Plan Act that was passed in March 2021. That money, along with nearly $94,000,000 from federal legislation approved last December, will help CPS navigate the next three school years. Parents put the concerns they wanted addressed in order of importance.

“I’ve reformatted the budget to coincide with the feedback from the public so they can see how we’ve invested,” CPS treasurer Jennifer Wagner said.

For their part, CPS is allocating those funds in the following ways:

  • Learning loss - $60,000,000
  • Facility improvements - $53,000,000
  • Technology upgrades - $37,000,000
  • Transportation, extra staff, summer and after-school learning programs - $50,000,000

The district will submit its spending plan to the Ohio Department of Education Thursday, but that proposal isn’t necessarily set in stone at this point. CPS will be able to adjust and make changes to the spending over the next three years if it's needed.

“This is the initial plan that we are allowed to modify as we go,” Wagner said. “So, as our needs change, things change, we can pivot and adapt this budget, too.”

Board members approved the treasurer’s report containing that spending plan. Some also appreciated the feedback from parents and hoped CPS could continue to use that technology to inform district policies moving forward.

“I think if we can tie those things, because I really love the ideas and thoughts from connecting very specifically with families, with that CRM (customer relationship management) tool,” said Ryan Messer, vice president of CPS Board of Education.

Mental health was the second biggest concern among parents. The district only plans to spend about $100,000 of the ESSER Funds on those services. CPS said it is better able to fund those programs through other funds and community partnerships.