How have Michigan schools spent federal COVID dollars so far?

Posted at 6:14 AM, Aug 19, 2022

LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. (WXYZ) — School districts around southeast Michigan were awarded billions from the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic to help with recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Action News checked in with several districts around metro Detroit to see how they’ve decided to spend discretionary federal aid, including from funding streams like the CARES Act and ESSER, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

A central theme for districts we spoke with? The important of literacy, connectivity, and social and emotional support of students.

Pinckney Community Schools, a rural district in Livingston County with a little more than 2,000 students, used a portion of its federal COVID relief to keep kids reading through the summer.

They transformed a “Pinckney Pirates” van into a community book bus, and also hosted free pop-up reading events around the community to donate books to students and families.

“We were very intentional of addressing potential learning loss, especially in the area of literacy,” said superintendent Rick Todd.

The district utilized $150,000 in ESSER funds to buy more chrome books for students to expand connectivity in the district to reach younger students.

“Our students in grades pre-school through twelfth grade all received a laptop that they’re able to take home if they need to,” said assistant superintendent of instruction at Pinckney, Basia Kiehler.

Kiehler led the way on a district survey to gauge what families wanted the money used for.

“Getting that feedback and really what were kind of the priorities? And literacy and that social emotional were the two priorities. And so that really helped give us direction,” Todd said.

Other uses for federal COVID aid in Pinckney Schools included funding a new school resource officer and a leadership program for students to help them reconnect.

In Pontiac Schools, the youngest learners will notice changes to their classrooms this fall; new furniture designed to promote cooperative learning for kindergartners.

Pontiac also bought additional laptops and hotspots for students using $462,000 in federal grant money.

On top of that, teachers also have received new technology to help with instruction.

“Our teachers have swivel devices where they can record themselves while they’re teaching and if a student is absent, the absent student is able to review that recording as well to make sure they didn’t miss anything during the school day,” Dr. DeSheil Echols, assistant superintendent told Action News.

Ypsilanti Schools asked its families what they wanted to see the money used on, and families reported they wanted more refillable water bottle stations. Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross said one was installed in each building.

And in Detroit, DPSCD used some of its $1.2 billion dollars in COVID relief money to fund summer school, mental health support, and a nurse in each school.

Dr. Nikolai Vitti, DPSCD superintendent, said $700 million of that money will fund building upgrades including A/C in very building.

Some of the federal funding, including ESSER funds, must be used by the end of September 2024.