School lockers

America's schools have received two rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds in response to COVID-19. With a third round of ESSER funds on the way from the American Rescue Plan, Hutchinson School District residents can provide their thoughts on the school's plan.

The Hutchinson Public Schools' plan, which can be found on the district website at isd423.org, is currently in a preliminary draft form. It and an online survey can be found by scrolling down to the "featured" section and clicking to "read more" regarding the school's safe learning plan. A direct link to the plan is tinyurl.com/2dne6nkp, and the survey, which is available until Aug. 1, is at surveymonkey.com/r/82DWMBX. Residents may also see what feedback has been left at tinyurl.com/veejdnnr.

Superintendent Daron VanderHeiden said stakeholders including staff, students, parents and community members are welcome to leave comments.

"As a district we are required and obligated to accept feedback," he said.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, ESSER funds are available through June 30, 2024, and schools must apply by Oct. 1, 2021. Hutchinson Public Schools are eligible for roughly $2.24 million in third-round ESSER funds.

Similar to what has been heard from county officials regarding pandemic relief funds, district staff are still seeking clarity from the federal government as to what precisely qualifies for various ESSER requirements. The plan must include intervention plans, such as summer learning or after school programs. Requirements also demand 20% of funds be spent to address learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Listed out in the draft plan are items proposed to be funded, including:

  • staff and student mental health;
  • academic intervention and student support;
  • full-time staff for math and reading intervention at West Elementary, Tiger Elementary, Park Elementary, and Hutchinson Middle School;
  • before- and after-school programming;
  • full-time staff to aid in credit recovery at Hutchinson High School;
  • heating, ventilation and air conditioning filtration at West Elementary and Hutchinson Middle School;
  • cleaning, food service and technology equipment; and
  • behavior specialists.

The plan notes ESSER positions will be one-year positions, or a maximum of three years at this time, and should be targeted to address learning loss from the pandemic. It also notes positions cut due to lower enrollment can be added back if student enrollment increases sufficiently in the 2021-22 school, but those positions would be covered in the general fund. On Thursday afternoon VanderHeiden confirmed the school is still planning to target learning loss with ESSER funds, but the school has started adding back positions weighed with enrollment.