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ESSER III Announcement

ESSER III Announcement  

October 5, 2021 — Boston Public Schools (BPS) today, submitted a grant application to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to receive $276 million in federal relief funds. To date, BPS has directed nearly $160 million in Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, money that has gone directly to schools and funded critical health and safety measures, upgrades to facilities, and programming and staff to focus on students’ social and emotional wellbeing as they have returned to full-time in-person learning.

The grant submitted today was for ESSER III, the third phase of the district’s strategic investment of federal funding directed to schools. BPS has shared regular updates with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) per federal and state guidelines.

To date, nearly half of ESSER II funds have gone directly to schools. Through an ESSER district approval process, school leaders consult their communities of students, families, and staff and request funds to address specific needs. Additional funding of ESSER II may come as a result of greater differentiated analysis (ie: weighted degrees of needs, by English Learner level, students with disabilities, Homeless). The other half has been allocated to investments to directly support schools, funding district-wide academic recovery initiatives that benefit all schools and improve air and water quality as detailed in the district’s current ESSER II Plan.

BPS has directed the funding based on feedback gathered from the community. Hundreds of stakeholders were engaged through more than 30 meetings and online commentary to deliver recommendations on how the ESSER funds should be allocated. A group of teachers volunteered to meet and deliver a report which highlighted a strong desire to focus on facilities and health and safety needs in school buildings. Students, families, and staff also cited health and safety, social and emotional needs, and learning environments. 

Based on the community feedback, BPS released a preliminary plan in early July which was offered to solicit additional input, producing a final grant proposal in late July to meet the DESE submission deadline. 

The district has taken a measured approach to allocate the one-time federal ESSER funds to supplement the historic BPS budget of $1.4 billion. Thanks to the leadership at City Hall, BPS is in the second of three years of an additional $100 million in investment funding that included $1.4 million for additional daytime custodial staff, $18.5 million to support schools experiencing enrollment declines, $10 million to elementary social workers for a multi-tiered system of support for students, and $6.8 million to multilingual family liaisons.

In addition to funds that will be provided to meet individual school needs, the ESSER III grant proposal submitted to DESE includes:

  • $4 million - Athletics Expansion
  • $5.5 million - Library Services Expansion 
  • $4 million - Guidance Counselors
  • $3 million - Science Lab Materials and Equipment
  • $9 million - Before and After School expansion
  • $20 million - Facilities improvements
  • $17 million - Healthy Recovery and School Environment Investments
  • $19 million - Investments in Families and Community
  • $36.5 million - Core Instruction, including targeted support for Inclusion for Students with Disabilities and Multilingual Learners
  • $11.5 million - Student Access and Opportunity, including investments in college and career preparation, arts, and supports specifically for transformation schools
  • $11 million - Equitable and Effective District Systems, including investments in data systems, transportation, and more equitable school budgeting

All Massachusetts districts receiving ESSER III must release a plan for the use of the grant within 30 days of receiving funds from DESE. BPS will post this plan after the School Committee votes to receive ESSER III funds, likely in November 2021.

This builds on the district’s allocation of ESSER II funding which included:

  • $61.5 million - Weighted allocation to support Quality School Plan implementation at Schools
  • $27.1 million - Operational Return and Recovery: School Environments and Beyond
  • $10.5 million - Academic Recovery - Students with Disabilities
  • $8.8 million - Academic Recovery - Instructional Core
  • $6.2 million - Academic Recovery - English Language Learners
  • $5.5 million - Social-Emotional Recovery: Strengthening Community and Investing in Children and Families
  • $3.3 million - Accountability, Implementation, and Risk Management

Finally, the ESSER I funding was directed to:


  • $25 million - Health and Safety 
  • $9 million - Food and Nutrition Services
  • $10 million - Expanded Summer Learning & Academic Supports
  • $5 million - Special Education Assessments & Compensatory Services
  • $5 million - Distance Learning and Technology
  • $1 million - Family and Student Engagement and Support