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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced $62.7 million in Virginia LEARNS Education Recovery grants to help school divisions expand and implement targeted initiatives to address learning loss among Virginia students as they continue to recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Over the past year, we have worked tirelessly to minimize educational disruptions and meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of our children, and we must accelerate these efforts to have an equitable recovery,” said Governor Northam. “This funding will enable school divisions to offer extended learning opportunities for those who have fallen behind and create targeted programs to address the impacts of lost instructional time during the pandemic. Our Administration remains committed to providing the necessary resources to our schools to ensure every Virginia student is equipped for success as we move forward.”
The funding includes $30 million in Virginia LEARNS grants to address unfinished learning due to school closures, including the following reopening and recovery priorities identified by the Virginia Department of Education’s Virginia LEARNS workgroup, Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane:
“Now more than ever, schools are using innovative strategies to meet their students’ unique needs,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “As we have traveled the Commonwealth in recent months, we have seen student-created wellness spaces, participated in hands-on learning activities in outdoor classrooms, and learned about thoughtful plans for summer instruction. With these funds, school divisions will be able to scale up successful initiatives and provide additional support to our most vulnerable students.”
The remaining $32.7 million in Virginia LEARNS grants will be awarded to school divisions to cover costs associated with planning and implementing year-round or extended-year calendars. In its report last month, the Virginia LEARNS workgroup recommended that school divisions consider extended learning opportunities and alternate schedules as strategies to mitigate the effects of learning loss.
School divisions may apply for one or both Virginia LEARNS grant opportunities through the Virginia Department of Education. The deadline for divisions to apply is May 28, 2021.
“I am optimistic that when students return in August and September, they will have the opportunity to experience school as they did before the pandemic,” said State Superintendent Lane. “But the impact of school closures and limited in-person instruction will not disappear immediately, especially for our most vulnerable learners. These grants will support the Commonwealth’s school divisions as they implement equitable strategies to meet the individual needs of all students during the 2021-2022 school year and beyond.”
Funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II Fund will account for $55 million of the grant money. The remainder of this allocation will come from $7.7 million in state funds designated specifically to support grants for extended-year and year-round school programs.
Virginia received approximately $939 million in ESSER II funds under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021. Ninety percent of the funding was distributed to school divisions in January based on the formula for allocating Title I, Part A funds. The ESSER II funding from this allocation is part of the 10 percent set aside for targeted state-level initiatives to address the impact of the pandemic on students and schools. During the 2021 General Assembly session, $30 million of the state set aside was designated for efforts to support unfinished learning and bridge gaps.
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