CLEVELAND, Ohio – Just as municipalities are receiving a once-in-a-generation injection of cash from the federal government, public K-12 schools and both private and public colleges are also receiving huge amounts of federal stimulus money through the American Rescue Plan.
Schools and colleges received money through previous coronavirus aid, including the CARES Act in March 2020 and the CRRSA Act in December 2020. But in most cases, they’re receiving considerably more from the American Rescue Plan – often about twice as much.
Public school districts and charter schools in Greater Cleveland – Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage and Summit counties – are receiving a total $974 million. By contrast, those schools received a combined $104 million under the CARES Act and $437 million from the CRRSA Act.
The money was divided based on enrollment and the number of students in low-income families, so large districts in urban areas are receiving the most. Cleveland Metropolitan School District is receiving $293 million. Akron Public Schools is getting $96 million.
How much is your district getting? A full list by county can be found at the bottom of this article.
Schools have until September 2024 to spend the money, which comes with few strings. The U.S. Department of Education wanted to give districts flexibility. So, the only restriction is that at least 20% of district funds should “address learning loss through the implementing evidence-based interventions and ensuring that those interventions respond to students’ social, emotional and academic needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups.”
Administrators now face an unfamiliar problem: What should we do with all this money?
“This infusion of federal monies is historic in size,” said Ryan Pendleton, CFO and treasurer for Akron Public Schools. “There’s really no other comparison of an investment and public education that we’ve ever seen in this size and scope, but it comes with great responsibility.”
A balancing act between innovation and sustainability
The stimulus funds are one-time-only, so districts are wary of creating programs they’d have to figure out how to pay for afterward.
“The new money is incredibly welcomed, and also a little bit tricky,” said Eric Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. “There are a lot of organizations across the country counseling school districts not to make long-term investments with one-time money because of the cliff that’s created.”
CMSD, for example, is considering expanding its art, music and physical education programs, so students can learn an instrument, make pottery or join a fitness class. But in a few years, when the money that’s paying for those teachers is gone, what happens to those programs?
“What we’re trying to do is make those investments now, bank our local dollars for as long as we can, but at some point, say to our community, ‘Here’s what we’ve been able to give you post-pandemic. Cleveland, are we willing to pay for it when the time comes?’”
Phillip Lovell, associate executive director at the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Alliance for Excellent Education, said making the best use of these funds is a challenge for education leaders, who are understandably exhausted after navigating the past year and a half.
“We’re not going to recover academically from the pandemic just this summer, or even just next school year,” Lovell said. “We have to see this as a long-term strategy where we are making different use of the school day, making different use of the school time, making different use of community resources, and seeing this as a multi-year recovery effort, not just an overnight effort.”
Lovell said schools should consider innovative approaches to traditional programs and methods of addressing learning loss. Instead of typical summer school, districts could partner with summer camps to offer more enticing and enriching experiences. Strategies for reengaging high schoolers, especially seniors, could include offering free childcare during the school day. And to encourage students to apply to college, high schools could hold campaigns for students to complete the FAFSA.
A major part of helping students recover academically is also taking care of their social and emotional needs, Lovell said.
“We have to meet the comprehensive needs of students. We want our young people to thrive, and in order to thrive, that means they need to be physically healthy, they need to be emotionally healthy, and then that contributes to being academically successful,” Lovell said. “It’s not one or the other.”
Similarly, the Brookings Institute published an article urging local leaders to use American Rescue Plan money to support “playful learning landscapes,” which allow school-age children to fill in achievement gaps in cognitive and social skills through interactive installations and activities.
The U.S. Department of Education agrees, with its requirements for districts to focus on addressing academic, social and emotional needs, with particular attention toward students in historically underrepresented groups.
“We need to need to emerge from the pandemic, with stronger systems than we have going into it. And that means, you know, we shouldn’t press pause,” Lovell said. “What can we do that will help to solve both the immediate problems that have arisen from COVID, as well as the problems that have already been that have always existed?”
How do some local districts want to spend the money?
Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer reached out to a handful of district leaders in Northeast Ohio to learn how they want to spend their American Rescue Plan money. Here’s what they said:
Rocky River City Schools
Treasurer Greg Markus said the bulk of the district’s $1.5 million will go toward its tutoring staff, including hiring an additional full-time tutor, bringing the total to about 25 full-time and two part-time. The tutors were previously paid for with Title I dollars and out of the district’s general fund. But with the district’s failed tax increase in May, stimulus has bought the district time and allowed them to maintain and bolster its tutoring services, Markus said.
“We had used some of our previous [stimulus] money for technology and we’ve used it for additional counseling, but with this bucket of money, we’ve really shifted to direct learning loss support,” Markus said.
Parma City Schools
Superintendent Charles Smialek wants to spend most of the district’s $22 million on addressing students’ social and emotional needs. Parma added a guidance counselor at each high school, now up to five or six per school. They also added a new position of one “home liaison” to each middle school. The position is similar to a guidance counselor but more focused on social-emotional aspects, including running support groups and connecting parents with resources in the community. The district also added more board-certified behavioral analysts to the elementary schools, bringing the total to seven.
“Obviously, there’s learning loss, certainly, but you have to look at the whole child,” Smialek said. “There’s also a need to make sure that we have better resources and better supports in place for students who may have experienced quite a bit of trauma, or just family adversity throughout the pandemic.”
To address learning loss, Parma is seeking to hire more teachers to decrease the average class size. Classes used to range from 25 to 28 students – 28 in the older grades and 25 in the younger grades, “but quite frankly, it would often go above that,” Smialek said.
The stimulus money is allowing Parma – which has also faced failed tax requests recently — to set targets for student to teacher ratios, at 20:1 in kindergarten and first grade, 22:1 in second grade, 24:1 for grades three and four and 26:1 for grades five, six and seven.
The district also used stimulus money to offer free summer school this year; about 800 students are enrolled for either intervention or enrichment, Smialek said.
Akron Public Schools
Pendleton, the district’s CFO, said plans are still in flux given the large amounts of money and responsibility. Plus, the district just came under new leadership. Christine Fowler-Mack took over as superintendent on July 1, succeeding David James who led the district for 13 years.
“She (Fowler-Mack) completely understands the opportunity and responsibility of this money,” Pendleton said. “Not speaking for her, but she already has a clear vision around student achievement, equity, stakeholder engagement, how can we leverage our facilities, and then the human capital to support those initiatives. She’s made those clear, and I think over the next couple of board meetings, she will be sharing that vision and timeline.”
District officials have been consulting with employees, students and their families and some of the hundreds of organizations that partner with the district in brainstorming how best to spend the money.
“We’ll still use some of that $96 million to cover COVID-related expenses, increased social distancing requirements, increased bus routes, increased staff to create lower class sizes to accommodate for that,” Pendleton said. “So, there’s still be some day-to-day expenses that I think would qualify for those monies. But the future, innovative kind of response to COVID – those plans are ongoing.”
Cleveland Metropolitan School District
Gordon listed ways the district is seeking to spend its $293 million:
- Offering additional summer programming. More than 8,400 students are in summer sessions this year, which provide opportunities to catch up on unfinished learning, to engage in enrichment projects and enjoy activities such as athletics, band, chess, climbing walls – “anything that gets kids reactivated with their friends and making new friends,” Gordon said.
- Expanding art, music and physical education programs.
- Extending the length of the school day by 50 minutes for pre-K through eighth grade. High schools are not formally extending the day, but since students ride RTA to and from school, the district is able to provide before- and after-school opportunities that fit in their flexible transportation schedule.
- Running activity buses so students can stay after school or come early to engage in other out-of-school-time activities.
- Providing a health professional in every building. Before the pandemic, the district had nurses that served multiple buildings.
- Remaining a 1:1 district by providing each student with a computer device and internet connection at home.
- Improving facilities that have aging HVAC systems or need doors or windows replaced.
- Hiring students and parents to help locate students that “kind of dropped out during the pandemic” and get them reengaged in school.
On the last point, Gordon said it’s hard to estimate how many students have gone off the radar, but said it’s in the thousands.
“We think there’s probably 3,000 or 4,000 kids that- just like, pre-K and K students, just didn’t come. So we’ve got to go get those kids and get them engaged this year because the parents kept them home last year. High school students: while they were on the rolls, they got jobs, like Amazon, and so they weren’t actively engaged in our classes. Are they dropped out? We don’t know. When school starts, are they going to show up? We don’t know.”
High school students are being paid to reach out to their peers, and through a partnership with the teachers union, some of their members who were not working this summer were hired to make phone calls, knock on doors and make home visits.
|Cuyahoga County district/school||Type||ARP funding|
|Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences-Ohio||Community School||$638,421.28|
|Apex Academy||Community School||$4,136,079.83|
|Bay Village City||Traditional District||$864,977.29|
|Beachwood City||Traditional District||$889,788.97|
|Bedford City||Traditional District||$9,928,542.89|
|Bella Academy of Excellence||Community School||$1,756,374.26|
|Berea City||Traditional District||$9,357,345.41|
|Brecksville-Broadview Heights City||Traditional District||$2,150,077.93|
|Broadway Academy||Community School||$4,050,552.42|
|Brooklyn City||Traditional District||$3,435,070.58|
|Chagrin Falls Exempted Village||Traditional District||$367,545.84|
|Citizens Academy||Community School||$2,442,233.49|
|Citizens Academy Southeast||Community School||$2,115,249.97|
|Citizens Leadership Academy||Community School||$1,262,666.08|
|Citizens Leadership Academy East||Community School||$3,455,371.42|
|Cleveland Academy for Scholarship Technology and Leadership||Community School||$1,295,961.78|
|Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy||Community School||$2,360,419.47|
|Cleveland College Preparatory School||Community School||$2,190,843.29|
|Cleveland Heights-University Heights City||Traditional District||$17,003,014.81|
|Cleveland Municipal||Traditional District||$293,152,902.47|
|Cleveland Preparatory Academy||Community School||$909,956.62|
|Constellation Schools: Eastside Arts Academy||Community School||$836,382.98|
|Constellation Schools: Madison Community Elementary||Community School||$2,082,898.47|
|Constellation Schools: Old Brooklyn Community Elementary||Community School||$1,373,244.82|
|Constellation Schools: Old Brooklyn Community Middle||Community School||$903,784.32|
|Constellation Schools: Parma Community||Community School||$3,083,666.44|
|Constellation Schools: Puritas Community Elementary||Community School||$1,070,494.12|
|Constellation Schools: Puritas Community Middle||Community School||$979,434.85|
|Constellation Schools: Stockyard Community Elementary||Community School||$1,709,912.99|
|Constellation Schools: Stockyard Community Middle||Community School||$427,072.20|
|Constellation Schools: Westpark Community Elementary||Community School||$1,500,282.05|
|Constellation Schools: Westpark Community Middle||Community School||$906,735.63|
|Constellation Schools: Westside Community School of the Arts||Community School||$2,113,600.15|
|Cuyahoga Heights Local||Traditional District||$649,532.72|
|East Academy||Community School||$2,264,842.54|
|East Cleveland City School District||Traditional District||$18,840,030.73|
|East Preparatory Academy||Community School||$1,641,665.41|
|Euclid City||Traditional District||$22,474,818.76|
|Euclid Preparatory School||Community School||$1,923,208.52|
|Fairview Park City||Traditional District||$1,929,992.85|
|Frederick Douglass High School||Community School||$588,866.31|
|Garfield Heights City Schools||Traditional District||$16,047,762.61|
|Global Ambassadors Language Academy||Community School||$1,069,386.48|
|Global Village Academy||Community School||$612,150.87|
|Green Inspiration Academy||Community School||$1,655,930.51|
|Harvard Avenue Performance Academy||Community School||$2,375,359.02|
|Hope Academy Northcoast||Community School||$2,149,700.49|
|Hope Academy Northwest Campus||Community School||$1,565,957.28|
|Horizon Science Acad Cleveland||Community School||$2,490,836.37|
|Horizon Science Academy-Cleveland Middle School||Community School||$2,458,642.73|
|Horizon Science Academy-Denison Middle School||Community School||$2,175,328.78|
|Huber Heights Preparatory Academy dba Parma Academy||Community School||$354,623.98|
|Independence Local||Traditional District||$608,307.51|
|Intergenerational School, The||Community School||$1,350,791.34|
|Invictus High School||Community School||$1,353,991.50|
|Lake Erie College Preparatory School||Community School||$2,040,029.26|
|Lake Erie International High School||Community School||$893,070.69|
|Lakeshore Intergenerational School||Community School||$833,958.60|
|Lakewood City||Traditional District||$10,651,949.25|
|Lincoln Park Academy||Community School||$2,812,672.06|
|Maple Heights City||Traditional District||$17,167,615.86|
|Mayfield City||Traditional District||$2,748,069.77|
|Menlo Park Academy||Community School||$928,682.55|
|Near West Intergenerational School||Community School||$1,111,592.34|
|Noble Academy-Cleveland||Community School||$2,006,311.09|
|North Olmsted City||Traditional District||$7,226,453.71|
|North Royalton City||Traditional District||$2,732,835.81|
|Northeast Ohio College Preparatory School||Community School||$3,412,502.21|
|Ohio College Preparatory School||Community School||$1,911,620.16|
|Ohio Connections Academy, Inc||Community School||$9,698,169.95|
|Old Brook High School||Community School||$936,327.98|
|Olmsted Falls City||Traditional District||$1,887,691.71|
|Orange City||Traditional District||$1,562,468.53|
|Orchard Park Academy||Community School||$1,260,538.57|
|Parma City||Traditional District||$22,143,701.98|
|Pinnacle Academy||Community School||$3,438,497.59|
|Promise Academy||Community School||$694,537.02|
|Regent High School||Community School||$839,278.62|
|Richmond Heights Local||Traditional District||$2,108,595.76|
|Rocky River City||Traditional District||$1,563,922.06|
|Shaker Heights City||Traditional District||$6,490,394.62|
|SMART Academy||Community School||$640,980.23|
|Solon City||Traditional District||$2,708,431.89|
|South Euclid-Lyndhurst City||Traditional District||$7,649,545.15|
|STEAM Academy of Warrensville Heights||Community School||$1,415,601.49|
|Stepstone Academy||Community School||$1,844,614.56|
|Strongsville City||Traditional District||$4,216,084.19|
|Summit Academy Community School-Parma||Community School||$1,107,631.72|
|T2 Honors Academy||Community School||$671,466.15|
|University of Cleveland Preparatory School||Community School||$2,236,165.52|
|Village Preparatory School||Community School||$4,495,506.07|
|Village Preparatory School Willard||Community School||$2,964,569.68|
|Village Preparatory School:: Woodland Hills Campus||Community School||$4,399,394.78|
|Warrensville Heights City||Traditional District||$10,160,409.87|
|Washington Park Community School||Community School||$1,420,595.92|
|West Park Academy||Community School||$1,940,528.41|
|West Preparatory Academy||Community School||$1,591,903.80|
|Westlake City||Traditional District||$3,316,048.49|
|Wings Academy 1||Community School||$1,717,641.90|
|Geauga County district||Type||ARP funding|
|Berkshire Local||Traditional District||$1,392,573.21|
|Cardinal Local||Traditional District||$3,402,474.14|
|Chardon Local||Traditional District||$1,754,178.89|
|Kenston Local||Traditional District||$945,618.11|
|West Geauga Local||Traditional District||$1,094,193.18|
|Lake County district/school||Type||ARP funding|
|Fairport Harbor Exempted Village||Traditional District||$800,456.42|
|Kirtland Local||Traditional District||$580,215.64|
|Madison Local||Traditional District||$3,133,574.34|
|Mentor Exempted Village||Traditional District||$4,958,850.33|
|Painesville City Local||Traditional District||$8,656,906.52|
|Perry Local||Traditional District||$1,247,724.39|
|Riverside Local||Traditional District||$955,699.94|
|Summit Academy Community School – Painesville||Community School||$260,117.39|
|Wickliffe City||Traditional District||$1,863,469.01|
|Willoughby-Eastlake City||Traditional District||$7,786,596.36|
|Lorain County district/school||Type||ARP funding|
|Amherst Exempted Village||Traditional District||$2,643,995.66|
|Avon Lake City||Traditional District||$1,194,406.40|
|Avon Local||Traditional District||$1,387,011.09|
|Clearview Local||Traditional District||$3,486,571.62|
|Columbia Local||Traditional District||$959,318.20|
|Constellation Schools: Elyria Community||Community School||$1,638,427.64|
|Constellation Schools: Lorain Community Elementary||Community School||$840,122.64|
|Constellation Schools: Lorain Community Middle||Community School||$558,603.65|
|Elyria City Schools||Traditional District||$23,906,529.10|
|Firelands Local||Traditional District||$1,519,603.92|
|Horizon Science Academy Lorain||Community School||$4,922,307.91|
|Keystone Local||Traditional District||$1,517,237.45|
|Life Skills Center of Elyria||Community School||$566,173.95|
|Lorain Bilingual Preparatory Academy||Community School||$1,039,699.39|
|Lorain City||Traditional District||$37,387,126.37|
|Lorain Preparatory Academy||Community School||$3,391,217.65|
|Midview Local||Traditional District||$3,039,361.86|
|North Ridgeville City||Traditional District||$2,390,918.49|
|Oberlin City Schools||Traditional District||$1,959,747.49|
|Sheffield-Sheffield Lake City||Traditional District||$2,761,913.48|
|Summit Academy Community School Alternative Learners-Lorain||Community School||$637,502.97|
|Summit Academy School – Lorain||Community School||$753,111.91|
|Wellington Exempted Village||Traditional District||$1,250,786.83|
|Medina County district||Type||ARP funding|
|Black River Local||Traditional District||$1,913,275.34|
|Brunswick City||Traditional District||$4,204,911.33|
|Buckeye Local||Traditional District||$1,330,576.66|
|Cloverleaf Local||Traditional District||$2,237,551.11|
|Highland Local||Traditional District||$1,121,104.19|
|Medina City SD||Traditional District||$3,590,101.95|
|Wadsworth City||Traditional District||$2,614,850.98|
|Portage County district/school||Type||ARP funding|
|Aurora City||Traditional District||$926,189.62|
|Bio-Med Science Academy STEM School||STEM||$437,429.30|
|Crestwood Local||Traditional District||$1,557,179.92|
|Field Local||Traditional District||$1,934,001.57|
|James A Garfield Local||Traditional District||$1,556,813.52|
|Kent City||Traditional District||$5,498,556.80|
|Ravenna City||Traditional District||$6,036,986.90|
|Rootstown Local||Traditional District||$848,173.46|
|Southeast Local||Traditional District||$2,130,983.22|
|Streetsboro City||Traditional District||$1,941,783.72|
|Waterloo Local||Traditional District||$1,180,183.50|
|Windham Exempted Village||Traditional District||$1,564,477.72|
|Summit County district/school||Type||ARP funding|
|Akron City||Traditional District||$95,287,195.94|
|Akron Preparatory School||Community School||$1,445,528.77|
|Akros Middle School||Community School||$732,833.05|
|Alternative Education Academy||Community School||$6,199,781.35|
|Barberton City||Traditional District||$9,765,763.68|
|Case Preparatory Academy||Community School||$1,049,375.30|
|Copley-Fairlawn City||Traditional District||$1,934,049.51|
|Coventry Local||Traditional District||$2,247,620.07|
|Cuyahoga Falls City||Traditional District||$5,004,698.58|
|Edge Academy, The||Community School||$1,182,640.81|
|Greater Summit County Early Learning Center||Community School||$220,561.92|
|Green Local||Traditional District||$3,995,549.91|
|Hudson City||Traditional District||$1,280,941.89|
|Imagine Akron Academy||Community School||$17,426.12|
|Imagine Leadership Academy||Community School||$1,129,859.72|
|Life Skills Center of North Akron||Community School||$223,154.88|
|Main Preparatory Academy||Community School||$1,018,979.52|
|Manchester Local||Traditional District||$2,305,809.94|
|Middlebury Academy||Community School||$1,623,327.10|
|Mogadore Local||Traditional District||$763,297.22|
|Nordonia Hills City||Traditional District||$2,211,507.01|
|Norton City||Traditional District||$1,808,709.60|
|Revere Local||Traditional District||$869,086.03|
|Schnee Learning Center||Community School||$209,953.84|
|Springfield Local||Traditional District||$4,004,768.12|
|STEAM Academy of Akron||Community School||$1,173,099.47|
|Steel Academy||Community School||$464,291.91|
|Stow-Munroe Falls City School District||Traditional District||$3,098,711.38|
|Summit Academy Akron Elementary School||Community School||$730,866.91|
|Summit Academy Akron Middle School||Community School||$401,072.77|
|Summit Academy Secondary – Akron||Community School||$373,583.50|
|Tallmadge City||Traditional District||$2,596,678.03|
|Towpath Trail High School||Community School||$1,016,757.19|
|Twinsburg City||Traditional District||$2,607,312.85|
|Woodridge Local||Traditional District||$3,009,864.26|
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