The American Association of Pediatrics came out with guidelines that call for universal masking in schools for everyone over the age of two on Monday, July 19.
With Gov. Abbott's executive order, that bans mask mandates, Texas schools can not require face masks, so many school districts may need to allocate a large portion of funds towards alternative solutions and PPE.
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III federal funds may play role in the funding for these initiatives.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced the release of $11.2 billion in new ESSER III funds through the American Rescue Plan Act on April 28, 2021.
The funds are to be used to tackle learning loss issues and costs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and used by school districts over the next three years. However, only two-thirds of the funds are available at this time pending approval from the U.S. Department of Education.
School districts have been applying for the funds through grant applications, and they may use them for personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning and sanitizing materials, and other supplies necessary throughout the pandemic.
Additionally, at least 20 percent of ESSER III funds are to be used to address learning loss through the implementation of programs that tackle learning loss such as comprehensive afterschool programs or extended school programs, according to Texas Association of School Boards.
Central Texas schools districts like Belton ISD are approving plans on how to use the ESSER III funds they will apply for in July.
For Belton ISD, the largest amount of funds will go toward specialized instructional spaces, according to chief financial officer Jennifer Land.
The rest will then be allocated to instructional programs, educational materials, staffing to assist with learning acceleration, mental health support, and other professional learning and communication enhancements.
Belton ISD’s total allocation is $11,117,008.
Waco ISD had it's application approved by the Texas Education Agency in June 2021. Waco ISD plans to use the funds, over the next 3 years, in providing academic support and closing the gap between learning loss, as well as providing a stronger foundation for literacy culture.
Waco ISD's total allocation is $49,931,517.
The state was also given $5 billion in funds for public education in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act. However, these funds have not yet been released by the state.