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Governor Kevin Stitt and State Superintendant of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister awarded Incentive Grants totaling $16 million to 150 Oklahoma school districts to help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on student learning and ensure students are able to access learning opportunities in the new school year.
The competitive grants consisted of $8 million from the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) set-aside in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund and $8 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund.
Both ESSER and GEER are components of the federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Under the CARES Act, the Oklahoma State Department of Education funds must meet “emergency needs” of districts in response to COVID-19, while GEER dollars expended to schools must be to those “most significantly impacted by coronavirus.”
Districts will spend Incentive Grant funds in five priority areas in which students were impacted by COVID-19 – expanding connectivity for students, purchasing a content management system (CMS) or learning management system (LMS), providing mental health supports for students, compensatory services to at-risk students and training in the science of reading for teachers of pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
A total of 360 districts applied for the Incentive Grants. The number of districts that indicated each priority area are:
• Connectivity, 345
• LMS/CMS, 212
• Mental health supports for students, 84
• Science of reading for elementary-age students, 84
• Compensatory services for at-risk students, 74
“Our districts indicated an urgent need for funds dedicated to connectivity and digital learning materials, and for good reason,” said Hofmeister.
“The pandemic has created a clarion call throughout the state and nation to bridge the digital divide. It is imperative that districts be equipped to take swift and decisive action to ensure all kids are learning amid a global pandemic, including in virtual or blended environments that best meet local context and the needs of families.”
Governor Stitt said the grants align with one of his priority initiatives.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the importance of digital transformation and the need for our students to have access to quality technology in order to enhance learning opportunities,” said Governor Stitt.
“I appreciate the commitment of Superintendant Hofmeister, OSDE and our local school districts as we continue to ensure these dollars are maximized to the benefit of our students and educators across the state.”
Applications were reviewed and awarded within five categories based on student enrollment of up to 500; 501-1,000; 1,001-2,500; 2,501-7,500 and 7,501 and up.
Awards ranged from $13,596 to $500,000 and are available for districts to draw down through June 30, 2021.
“We are grateful to our federal delegation and Governor Stitt for this funding to mitigate the significant impact COVID-19 has had on student learning,” said Hofmeister. “It is critical that we continue to explore additional avenues of support for our students and schools.”