HONOLULU — On Tuesday, state Department of Education Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto announced how the department is spending the $43.4 million dollars of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds while charter schools still need funding.
“The HIDOE has been able to strategically leverage federal CARES Act funds to address COVID-19-related issues by focusing its efforts on providing educational services to our students through distance learning and preparing our facilities for students and staff,” Kishimoto said.
“Thus, much of the funds used to address COVID-19-related issues were used for devices and connectivity for our students and teachers, personal protective equipment and supplies for cleaning and disinfecting.”
She continued: “In mid-May, we submitted our application for approval to the United States Department of Education, and one day later we were awarded $43.4 million of ESSER funds for Hawai‘i,” Kishimoto said. “The funds have been allocated into 12 priority areas.”
The ESSER funds include $10.3 million for summer learning, $811,550 for distance-learning training, $13,380 for career and technical education, $1.6 million for staff training, $2.5 million for impact services, $16.9 million for learning devices, $2.1 million for equitable services, $9.7 million for connectivity, $6.3 million for health and safety, $2.9 million for a learning platform, $1.9 million for transition safety nets, and $3.5 million for special education.
The DOE must use the federal funds before Sept. 20, 2022. There is an unallocated amount of $8.8 million that the DOE said will be available to use after Dec. 30.
In August, the DOE also received $31 million out of the $1.25 billion in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds issued to the state in March.
The relief funds are used to acquire equipment related to distance learning, which includes laptops and Wi-Fi devices. All of those funds must be used by Dec. 30, 2020.
The DOE has a pending relief fund request for $4 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funds. If the DOE is awarded the GEER funds, it must use all of it before Sept. 30, 2021.
According to the DOE, the GEER fund would provide immediate relief to significant impacts from COVID-19, with special emphasis on digital equity for access and connectivity, effective ways to deliver parent education, parent training and family support while having innovative practices to achieve the global learning outcomes.
So far, the DOE has purchased 4,238 learning devices, and of those 2,443 have been handed out to schools on Kaua‘i. Some 1,795 learning devices are still pending delivery. And 1,444 hotspot devices have been handed out to schools on Kaua‘i to distribute to students.
Meanwhile, State Public Charter School Commission Interim Executive Director Yvonne Lau said charter schools face some challenges.
“Some of our schools are having a difficult time with students who don’t sign in or attend online classes,” Lau said. “There is an increase in homeschooling requested. Schools are worried that should these students return to school, they will fall behind.”
Lau said they learned about the $31 million in CARES Act funds but are still waiting for the DOE to let them know how they can access those funds.
“Our schools are 600 hotspots short, (and) 2,600 devices are in need whether they are laptops, chrome books or iPads, “ said Lau. “At this point, we are not aware of federal funds coming our way. We are just waiting. Our schools are working with DOE to ensure that things are provided.
“I do want to thank the superintendent Dr. Kishimoto and the Department of Education for reaching out to us from the start of the pandemic,” said Lau.
For more info, see hawaiipublicschools.org/ConnectWithUs/Organization/Budget/Pages/CARES-spending-reports.aspx.