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Feds Approve Release Of $611 Mil For Mass. Schools

Federal education officials have approved the state's Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) plan and distributed $611.3 million in funds to Massachusetts to help safely reopen schools and address the needs of students disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday morning announced that Massachusetts was among six states to secure state plan approval and receive the remaining $6 billion in ESSER funds due to those states.

"It is heartening to see, reflected in these state plans, the ways in which states and Washington, D.C., are planning to use American Rescue Plan funds to continue to provide critical support to schools and communities, particularly as we move into the summer and look ahead to the upcoming academic year," U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

The federal agency said Massachusetts will use the funds to help schools fund Acceleration Academies this summer, "which will allow students to learn and build skills working intensively on one subject in small, hands-on learning environments with excellent teachers. This will be a multi-year program that the Department anticipates will impact more than 50,000 students statewide each year."

In late March, Massachusetts received the first two-thirds of its ESSER III allocation, or about $1.22 billion.

Matt Deninger, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's acting chief strategy and research officer, said the funds are allocated using the Title I formula to distribute more funding to districts that serve high concentrations of students from low-income households, according to state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education May meeting minutes.

Deninger said DESE must use a portion of the grant for summer enrichment, after-school programs, and to address lost instructional time. He said district ESSER III applications were already available, but would not be due until October.

Forty states have submitted ESSER state plans to the federal department, and Massachusetts appears to be among the first to receive approval.

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