The Brownsville Independent School District has been allocated more than $185.3 million for education purposes under the American Rescue Plan Act through the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief III Fund.

The district announced the allocation on Friday with Superintendent Rene Gutierrez saying the district was very excited to receive the federal funding. The total amount is $185,350,977.

“We have been working diligently with our local representatives to ensure the district is entitled to its shares of funds and to begin the recovery process of our district and to close the learning gaps for all of our students,” Gutierrez said in a press release.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law March 11 of this year and included $122 billion for the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund. The funds are provided to state educational agencies and school districts to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s students, the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education stated in a press release.

According to BISD, two-thirds of the funding will be released in amount of $123,567,318 based on the initial grant award notice from the state of Texas by the U.S. Department of Education. The remaining $61,783,659 will be released to the district and remain contingent upon the U.S. Department of Education’s approval of the state plan.

District officials plan to engage students, staff and parents to give the public a chance to provide ideas on how the funds for the district will be used.

The district is required to post its “Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plans” on its website within 30 days of receiving the funding. The district is required to spend at least 20% of the funding on addressing learning loss, such as evidence-based interventions, summer learning, extended day and comprehensive after-school programs and extended programs.

BISD must also purchase educational technology equipment for students, such as hardware, software and connectivity, provide mental health services and supports, including implementation of evidence based full-service community schools, school facility repairs and improvements to enhance the indoor air quality and to enable the operation of schools to reduce the risk of virus transmission.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a June 2020 Gallup poll found that nearly three in 10 parents said their child is “already experiencing harm” to their emotional or mental health because of social distancing and closures. The results are based on interviews with more than 1,200 parents of children in grades kindergarten through 12 whose school is closed to in-person instruction.

BISD closed its schools in March 2020 and switched to distance learning as the coronavirus pandemic made its way to the Rio Grande Valley. The district continued distance learning for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. It began the 2020-2021 school year with distance learning and reopened its classrooms for in-person learning the Monday after Thanksgiving to any parent seeking that option.

Last month, the district reported that 29% of its more than 40,000 students were attending classes at their assigned campus.

Officials said the Elementary and Secondary Emergency III funds BISD receives must be spent by September 2024.

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