One challenge school administrators face is how to keep funding in their districts, especially as enrollment in public schools continues to decline. As public school funding is often directly tied to student enrollment, administrators around the country are having to make difficult decisions to ensure there is no delay in student learning like combining classrooms, laying off staff, and in some instances, closing schools entirely.
As someone who has worked in a variety of administrator roles from a principal in Miami-Dade County Public Schools to the President and Chief Executive Officer of Florida Virtual School (FLVS), I know what that pressure feels like, especially when our ultimate goal is to do what is best for our students and staff.
While there were certainly enrollment declines pre-pandemic, COVID-19 has continued to exacerbate the issue, as more than half of all parents considered or are considering choosing a new school for their children, with 17 percent of parents indicating they chose a new school for their children within the past year, 11 percent considered new schools, and 26 percent are currently considering new schools. Additionally, 48 percent of parents said their community does not offer enough education options for them.
My recommendation for school leaders is to develop online or blended learning programs. By doing so, they can keep students enrolled in their school or district by providing them with alternative forms of education that best fit their needs. And, right now, school administrators have access to a time-sensitive resource to help create these programs – Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.
ESSER Funds to Support Digital Programs
ESSER funds were established as part of the Education Stabilization Fund in the CARES Act to address the impact that COVID-19 had on elementary and secondary schools across the nation. And while some of these funds have helped with initial impacts brought on by the pandemic – like sanitization efforts, the purchase of PPE, like masks, hand sanitizer, and more, there are even more ways schools and districts can use the funds to innovative, invest, and improve their technological infrastructure and digital tools.