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Delaware's back-to-school plan approved, federal funds secured

Delaware Public Media

The Delaware Department of Education’s (DOE) plan to reopen schools in the fall has been approved by the federal government, securing another $137 million from the American Rescue Plan.  

Delaware is among 11 other states and the District of Columbia to have its back-to-school plans approved. This locks in the final third of Delaware’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds – which now total more than $410 million.

90 percent of those funds go directly to school districts. The remaining 10 percent is for the state to allocate by August 23rd.

Education Sec. Dr. Susan Bunting says addressing the lost instructional time during state mandated lockdowns last year is top of mind. 

“The learning acceleration is a main one,” said Bunting. “We’re all looking at how over the past 15 months, COVID has disrupted some of the learning for our students. So the learning across all subgroups is a major focus of what we will be investing our funds in.”      

Bunting notes learning acceleration was the main issue raised by a DOE survey of Delawareans up and down the state. She says behavioral health, stakeholder engagement and educator recruitment and retention are other priorities.

“It’s really, really important to hear from people who have gone through this COVID challenge with us and have seen the impact in many ways,” she said. “So we’re really glad to get the perspectives of a wide range of Delawareans.”

Some of the funds are locked in to go to summer learning and afterschool programs. Bunting says the summer programs already put in place will help guide spending as the state allocates the funds into September 2024. 

“After having this summer with our learning acceleration programs that we’ve put into place, if they have proven successful, then we’ll have some idea as to how much they will cost as we go into ‘22 or ’23,” said Bunting.      

Both Bunting and Gov. John Carney have voiced support for a full return to in-person learning this fall and the state announced a partnership with Quidell last week to test for COVID at schools.

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