Emergency Relief Funding Priorities

Contact Information

Robin Howe
ESSER Project Manager

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal and state governments invested in emergency relief funding for Washington’s students, schools, and school districts. Funds have been authorized through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act.

While the bulk of these funds go directly to support school districts, Congress and the State Legislature have provided funds to OSPI, as the state’s K–12 education agency, to support statewide activities focused on student learning and well-being recovery and acceleration. Leveraging these one-time funds, OSPI is investing in a variety of programs to support as many students as possible, particularly students furthest from educational justice, for years to come.

Emergency Relief Funding Stories
ESSER Year 4 Reporting

How Funds are Being Utilized

Enhancing Learning Recovery and Acceleration

The pandemic impacted many of our students academically, and schools, school districts, families, and community partners are working hard to support students’ learning recovery and acceleration. OSPI is investing in projects to improve the way we teach mathematics across all grade levels, advance reading and literacy outcomes in early learning, and converting best practices in remote learning and lessons learned from the pandemic into recommendations to improve existing and future remote learning models. In addition, OSPI is continuing to provide funding to community-based organizations across the state who are dedicated to supporting academic and well-being recovery and acceleration, especially for students furthest from educational justice, through before and afterschool programs.

Emergency Relief Funding Stories


Supporting Student Mental, Physical, & Emotional Well-being

It is well-documented that the pandemic has impacted students' well-being in many ways. OSPI is utilizing emergency relief funds to support a regional delivery system of mental and behavioral health services for students; pilot adding school-based physical activity coordinators in elementary schools in high-poverty areas; train school and district staff to help students build and maintain hope through goal-setting, pathway development, barrier navigation, and more; and supporting districts in implementing a multi-tiered system of supports.

Emergency Relief Funds Story


Promoting Reengagement & Preventing Disengagement

Due to the impacts of the pandemic, many students disengaged from school entirely or are at risk of doing so. OSPI is investing in evidence-based strategies to work with community partners and school districts to locate and reengage students who have left school and ensure a strong transition back, support schools in ensuring high school students are on track to graduate, and support students who are behind on credits to accelerate and address unfinished learning through alternative learning experiences.

Emergency Relief Funds Stories


Advancing Learning in Emerging & Unique Ways

As we emerge from the pandemic, we have learned a lot of new and creative approaches to support and enhance student learning. OSPI is investing in evidence-based strategies to support student learning in emerging and unique ways, including through increased outdoor learning and environmental and sustainability literacy, creating a summer arts academy for students in foster care who may not have access to arts in traditional settings, and providing districts with funding to explore whether a balanced calendar model would work well for their community.

Emergency Relief Funds Stories


Supporting Educators & School Employees

As we recover from the pandemic, our educators, school employees, and district staff would benefit from opportunities to share learning and other supports, as well as from targeted investments in recruiting and retaining diverse educators. OSPI is investing in a study to pilot a residency program for students in teacher preparation programs, as well as in a statewide collaborative effort to collect what schools have learned throughout the pandemic and create an opportunity for districts facing similar challenges to learn from each other. In addition, OSPI is expanding the state’s program for supporting beginning educators to ensure nurses, counselors, psychologists, social workers, and more also have the opportunity to engage with and learn from a mentor. Further, OSPI is developing a long-term initiative, centering tribal values and traditional knowledge, to recruit and retain Native American educators.

Available Grant Funding

ALE Accelerating Unfinished Learning Grant

Many students have unfinished learning and exacerbated social-emotional needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Universal screening can identify a student’s unique academic gaps and social emotional needs, and a response can be individualized using an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE). However, many districts face a variety of barriers to providing individualized scheduling and learning plans due to scheduling constraints and funding formula disparities, forcing students to retake courses or transfer out of district.

This grant opportunity encourages accelerated learning recovery through academic and social emotional screening, individualizing a response via ALE, and providing the funding for school districts that would otherwise be financially disincentivized to offer ALE. This will reduce the impact of retaking entire courses, create an opportunity to keep students enrolled at their neighborhood schools, and get students back on track with their peers in an accelerated timeline.

For grant information, applications, and more, visit the ALE Accelerating Unfinished Learning Grant webpage.


Balanced Calendar Grant

In Washington state, a traditional school year lasts 180 days. Students have a few short breaks along the way and a long break in the summer. Instead of concentrating 180 school days into nine months, a balanced calendar spreads them throughout the year. Schools may use the breaks to host “intersessions,” where they can provide additional learning experiences if needed.

Local education agencies may apply for grant funding during the 2021–22 and 2022–23 school years to study this approach and decide if it is something they would like to pursue. In addition to the funding, OSPI and other partners are providing job-alike sessions, regional meetings, and other activities to support school districts with implementation of the work.

For grant information, applications, and more visit the Balanced Calendar webpage.
Community-Based Organizations Grant

The Washington State Legislature has allocated $12,885,000 of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III funds through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, for grants to community-based organizations (CBOs) to collaborate with Washington school districts to support learning recovery and acceleration. Of the funds, $1,000,000 of this has already been distributed to statewide CBO's leaving $11,885,000 of these funds will be available through the Community-Based Organizations (CBO) Grant to Support Student Learning Recovery and Acceleration.

Organizations eligible to apply include local CBO’s serving specific local needs and populations, which are a Washington Secretary of State registered Nonprofit Corporation and/or Charitable Organization, and/or has 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

For grant information, applications, and more visit the Community-Based Organizations Grants webpage.
Reimagine Education Project Grant

The REP is a grant program funded by Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III. This grant program opened in the fall of 2021 and will end in June 2023. The REP supports 2-year pilots led by educators, teams of educators, or schools/programs to:

  • Investigate an innovative approach to learning in an in-person setting, or
  • Investigate instructional and/or social emotional practices in Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) and online settings.

Grant funds will financially support local pilots, provide regular professional learning and networking, collect evidence on successful practices, and lead to the development of a menu of innovative practices to support continued transformation of our education system and inform future policy and funding decisions.

For grant information, applications, and more visit the Reimagine Education Project Grant webpage.