Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Funds III Newsletter - Winter 2023

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ESSER LogoOregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds III 

Winter 2023 Newsletter

Student Playing Video Games

Students participating in East Metro Esport Championships and Expo. Students compete in esports while receiving instruction in computer science and engaging with STEM industry professions. This ESSER III-funded program also connects in-school and after-school instruction and programming. 

As we embark on the final year of ESSER and all pandemic-related funding, we look forward to continuing our partnership with our school districts. Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is grateful for everything districts do to ensure Oregon students are learning and thriving. Also, thank you for all of your attention to submitting final ESSER II claims and the planning and implementing the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III) Fund.

Here are six things you should know:

Important ESSER II and III Reminders

1. Final ESSER II Update - Three Cheers!   

ESSER II has concluded, and we are pleased to announce that Oregon's school districts have successfully utilized a statistical 100% of the available funds. This means that $485,357,910 was spent on ESSER II, supporting students and aiding the community's pandemic recovery efforts. This is an outstanding achievement, and ODE is thankful for the diligent work of all the districts in ensuring that the funds were utilized by the federal deadline. For further information on how the districts spent their ESSER funds, please review the ESSER Expenditure Transparency Dashboard.

2. Unfinished Learning Reminder

What are the expectations for districts regarding unfinished learning when using their ESSER funds?

  • The U.S. Department of Education requires that at least 20% of a school district's ESSER III allocation be used for unfinished learning purposes. Don't hesitate to get in touch with the ODE Pandemic Relief Team with any questions at esser@ode.oregon.gov

What does "Unfinished Learning" mean?

  • Unfinished learning is a term unique to Oregon and is being used in place of the federal term "Lost Instructional Time." The term references evidence-based interventions (high-dosage tutoring, summer school, extended day, etc.) that a school district implements to impact student outcomes positively.

What does it mean for a program to be evidence-based?

More information can be found on the ODE ESSER FAQs section of the website.

3. Participation Data Collection 

As a reminder, starting with activities and services provided in the last school year (2022-23), districts should be collecting student participation data if implementing the following ESSER-funded activities:

  • Summer School or Enrichment
  • Extended Instruction Time
  • After School Programs
  • High-Dose Tutoring
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Student use of ESSER-Purchased Education Technology

ODE is offering districts the option to report this data via SSID numbers or by aggregate demographic data. Data for the 2022-23 year will be collected in the spring within the ESSER Annual Reporting. The United States Department of Education has yet to provide the reporting window timeline. We anticipate it may be in the late spring as it has been for the last two years. 

For more information, see the September 2022 Participation Data Office Hour Slides.  Contact the ODE.ESSER@ode.oregon.gov email with any questions you have!

4. Please Submit and Share Success Stories 

Districts have worked hard to think both creatively and strategically about how to invest their Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III funds. We appreciate how schools are tailoring their expenditures to support students based on local needs and community engagement across the state. Now, as we launch the final year of ARP ESSER III funding, is the time to tell the story of how this funding has been used to help address unfinished and accelerated learning, successfully return to in-person instruction, and take action to bolster the social and emotional needs of both children and the adults in our schools.

Please share information about your ESSER III investments, successes, and learning with us by posting to social media #ESSERImpactOregon or by emailing ode.esser@ode.oregon.gov. Use this toolkit for ideas!

Students and Buildings Flyer for ESSER Story Request

5. State ESSER Set Aside Corner

We are excited to highlight one of the 12 projects Oregon has designated as an ESSER III Set-Aside Investment below. Narratives about Oregon’s full plan for the state’s allocation of ESSER III Set-Aside funds

Key Investment #11 Update: Culturally Specific and Culturally Responsive Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Learning Opportunities - $2.2 Million 

Four boys holding a sign

High School Rocket League Champions from DayOne Tech led by Benjamin Lostheart

The ESSER ‘After School STEM’ grant has successfully funded 14 different projects, impacting a broad range of 64 school districts, including educational service districts, the Federal Bureau of Indian Education, and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Our initiatives have allowed us to impact the lives of students across Portland Metro, Willamette Valley and North Coast, Southwestern Oregon, Central Oregon, and Eastern Oregon, reflecting a statewide commitment to enhancing STEM education.

Our grant-funded projects embody the ESSER III ‘After School STEM’ initiative’s commitment to fulfilling the academic needs of students while addressing their social and emotional development through culturally specific STEM education. Each project is dedicated to uniquely providing a culturally responsive educational approach while being equitable, which is illustrated in a few of our key successes:

  • Club de Amig@s en STEM has developed a culturally responsive E-Textiles lesson plan and conducted four cohorts of family workshops, primarily engaging indigenous populations in STEM learning experiences.
  • Building Blocks 2 Success’s robotics program has extended to include more middle and high school students, integrating a college prep and career pathways program in collaboration with local colleges and universities.
  • Frontier Afterschool Makers is actively establishing permanent Innovation Stations in classrooms, labs, libraries, and community centers within remote rural areas, addressing a critical gap in STEM resources for these communities.
  • East Metro ESports has established 9 E-Sports and CS Teams, engaging an average of 13 students per term across 9 schools in 3 different school districts, with an ongoing campaign to expand this successful model to schools in the Portland Public and surrounding School Districts.

As we progress through this funding cycle, our priority is to enhance our 14 projects continuously to ensure they evolve to meet the needs of a changing educational landscape and underserved students. Our project successes are testaments to our vision of a future where every student in Oregon has access to STEM learning that reflects their culture, identity, and aspirations for a more inclusive and dynamic educational environment.

Submitted by Dr. Dominique Austin, East Metro STEM Partnerships 

6. District Innovation Spotlight

Share Your ESSER III Success Stories with ODE!

What are some innovative things districts are doing with their ESSER funds? Every quarter, we will highlight promising and creative activities that have the potential to impact student outcomes. 

Here is a feature story from Springfield School District regarding how they creatively and collaboratively used their ESSER III funds to offer increased access to academic and enrichment activities to students over the summer break.


Students standing outside of building holding up passes

Smiling group of Springfield School District students holding their 1PASSes.

In the summer of 2022, the District teamed up with Willamalane Park and Recreation District to offer an active and engaging summer for local students. The goal was simple: increase access to academic and enrichment activities. Students could attend Willamalane science, technology, engineering, math classes, summer camps, preschools, youth sports camps, swim lessons, and other summer programs at no cost. More than 700 SPS students participated in 125 different camps and programs.

“Getting the summer camps at no cost made it easy to keep my daughters active over the summer,” said Todd McGowan, father of two Mt. Vernon Elementary children. “Because of the camps, we didn’t have to search for things to do. We knew our children were getting quality educational opportunities so they could stay engaged. It also gave us peace of mind knowing they were healthy and safe.”

In addition to the summer program collaboration, SPS and Willamalane provided a summer recreation pass called the 1PASS. The 1PASS program, which Willamalane runs, is a family favorite, providing many summer activities in Springfield and Eugene. With the 1PASS, kids utilized a single pass to access more than 15 healthy and fun activities. This allowed kids and their families to stay active and busy all summer long.

For the summer of 2022, SPS and Willamalane collaborated to ensure students had access to the 1PASS, the pass that allows kids to access 16 exciting destinations throughout the region at no cost. The district utilized ESSER III funds to provide more than 3,300 1PASSes to students and the opportunity to seek out enrichment opportunities for the entire summer.

“Usually I would have to say, ‘No, I can’t go because I don’t have any money’ to my friends wanting to do fun things,” said Peri, an SPS 6th grader. “But since I had the 1PASS, and it was summer, and I had lots of free time, I went to Splash! for free, I went to the trampoline park for free, I went to putt putt (Camp Putt) for free, and I was just able to do lots of cool things because I had the 1PASS.”

“The 1PASS on its own is great,” said Hayley Orton, parent of two SPS students. “I have two kids, and the passes gave us a variety of options to keep them busy. Most of all, we loved that so many other kids at their school had the 1PASS as well, which meant that they were able to carpool with friends to the 1PASS destinations all summer long. The passes helped keep them active and social!”

Submitted by Brian Richardson, Director of Communications Springfield School District

Use of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds in Oregon

Since 2020 Oregon has received $1.62 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds to support the needs of all students, with a focus on historically excluded communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The state has allocated 90% of its allotment to school districts to spend based on their community’s unique needs. ODE has distributed the other 9.5% (.5% can be used for administrative costs) to support 12 equity-driven initiatives designed to address unfinished learning, support the health, safety, and mental wellness of our students and staff, and strengthen high-quality, culturally-sustaining instruction and leadership. These initiatives are designed for all students and are specifically centered on equitably serving Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Tribal students, students with disabilities, students who identify as LGBTQ2SIA+; emerging bilingual; and those navigating foster care, houselessness, and poverty, and those with limited access to resources due to rural location.

We send out newsletters on a quarterly basis, so keep an eye out to stay up to date on ESSER III information.