ESSER Update: PPE keeps students and staff safe

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Learning acceleration and recovery is impossible when students cannot make it to class, which is why Dallas ISD committed so much time and effort to providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at every campus and office. As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic began, the district started purchasing materials required to keep students and staff safe and healthy, including air purifiers, plexiglass, hand sanitizer, wipes and backpack sprayers.

The cost of the district’s pandemic response in those first years was substantial, but Assistant Superintendent of Maintenance and Facility Services David Bates said Dallas ISD was in a “great position financially” at the time and was able to support the initial costs. Even better, $23 million out of $26 million have since been reimbursed thanks to funds from FEMA. Funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund is helping cover some of the costs.

“Between FEMA and ESSER, we really didn’t pay anything for PPE, which has been phenomenal,” Bates said. “We’re in a position now where we’re ready. And thanks to ESSER, moving forward our district will not have to pay out of pocket, look to FEMA for reimbursement   or tap into our fund balance. We have ESSER dollars at our disposal if we need them.”

Over the next two years, Dallas ISD has allocated up to $6 million a year in ESSER funds to cover PPE and cleaning costs, but Bates does not anticipate using the entire budget unless a new variant appears or some other pandemic setback occurs. For now, Bates’ team is working to restock campus supplies so PPE can be accessed as needed.

Ultimately, the goal is to not use ESSER funds for PPE and cleaning, because that will mean these safety measures are no longer needed, Bates said. Until then, the district is taking steps to be prepared no matter what the future may hold.

“There’s so much to be done for our kids holistically,” Bates said. “ESSER can touch every part of the kid’s life. It is not just the teacher who stands in front of them, but also the air that’s coming through the vent. We have to keep kids in school, and ESSER is going to allow us to do that. And these kids need it more than ever.”

To learn more about Dallas ISD’s federally-funded pandemic recovery efforts, visit https://www.dallasisd.org/esser.

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