Education officials explain how school systems can use coronavirus relief funds

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Officials with the West Virginia Department of Education recently explained to the state Board of Education how local school systems can use coronavirus relief funds to ensure safe operations once the fall semester begins in August.

The board heard from federal programs manager Melanie Purkey and state school operation officer Amy Willard, in which the two answered questions about federal funding allocated for West Virginia’s schools.

The U.S. Congress in March approved nearly $122 billion to states and school districts through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER.

The money can be used for coordinating preparedness and response efforts, professional development, repairing school facilities to reduce virus transmission, and addressing the needs of children.

Purkey noted the funding can also be used to cover the salaries of existing and new employees.

“One of the strong components of all three ESSERs is to keep people employed and to hire new staff to meet student-staff needs,” she said.

Willard said the federal officials are still finalizing rules about some funding provisions.

“We are still awaiting some federal guidance on the maintenance of equity requirement that exists with these ESSER funds that essentially says you can’t cut funding at your high-need schools from state and local sources more than you would have at any other school in the county,” she added.

The state Board of Education is scheduled to next meet on July 14 in Charleston.

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