Lake Travis ISD plans to use $3 million in federal relief funds to address students’ academic and social-emotional needs spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a proposal shared during a July 21 board meeting.

The funding will be allocated through the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Program. To date, the U.S. Department of Education has released two-thirds of the federal dollars to the Texas Education Agency.

In order to obtain the funding, which may be used through September 2024, districts must submit an application to the TEA by July 27 that includes a plan for the use of funds as well as the safe reopening of in-person instruction. Eligible uses outlined by the TEA include extended instructional time, professional development and mental health resources, among other education services.

District officials met with a committee of campus leaders in May and June to develop a plan for the distribution of funds. Additionally, LTISD distributed a community survey that obtained more than 1,200 responses, according to Stefani Allen, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Among the stakeholder input, students’ social and emotional health emerged as the top priority, Allen said. Through the online survey, 51% of participants designated social-emotional needs as a high-priority for ESSER funds, and 29.9% recognized it as a moderate priority. The next highest ranked category was COVID-19 health and safety enhancements, followed by academic concern.

Per the survey, the lowest ranked priority area pertained to campus technology needs, and according to Allen, this was the result of previously executed improvements.

“That partly was because of all of the work you’ve done prior to this,” Allen said. “We have a lot of technology services for our students.”

Based on these results, LTISD plans to spend the ESSER dollars on several campus positions and sources of academic material. Those include an early-literacy prekindergarten coach, middle and high school social workers, and teachers for at-risk students as well as an elementary school response to intervention coordinator focused on Section 504, which pertains to special education services.

Other proposed uses include accelerated learning tutorials for students. Allen said the goal is to arrange time within the school day to conduct structured learning tutorials for students. Allen said the district will identify students in need of these services based on results from several assessments, including the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exam.

“The first month of school we’ll really be assessing where our students are and which students do we really need to focus in on,” Allen said.

Once approved by the TEA, funds could become available by late summer, according to LTISD Chief Financial Officer Pam Sanchez.