Use ESSER Funds to Purchase Recording Systems

A school bus on a city street during the day

As COVID-19 has forced schools to figure out new ways to protect their students and staff, many have struggled with implementing new safety measures and technology including recording systems due to a lack of funding.

With already tight budgets stretched razor-thin as a result of efforts to address the pandemic, many schools are left wondering how they can afford the tools they need to protect students and staff.

To provide key funding to address the impact of COVID-19 on schools and get students back to school safely, the federal government created the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund as part of the three rounds of stimulus packages that have come out.

In total, nearly $122 billion in ESSER funds have been made available to states and schools, with no repayment needed.

While the funds can be utilized for several different uses, school bus video recording systems are one piece of safety technology you can use to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at your school – and you can buy them with ESSER funds.

With that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at how that technology can be used to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and how you can apply for and secure ESSER funding to purchase technology like school bus video recording systems.

How Do School Bus Video Recording Systems Reduce the Impact of COVID-19?

So how exactly can you use school bus video recording systems to combat COVID-19 and protect your students and staff?

  • Confirmation of Sanitation: Increased sanitation efforts are crucial to preventing the spread of COVID-19. That’s especially true for school buses, where you have different drivers and students boarding each day. Here you can use video recording systems to ensure the cleaning policies you’ve enacted are being followed. If you require your drivers to clean and disinfect their buses when they return at the end of their shift, the transportation director could simply review the video for each bus in the morning to confirm cleaning was performed.
  • Contact Tracing: The video captured by these systems can also assist with contact tracing efforts. If you find that a student, driver or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, the footage captured by the systems can help to identify any possible exposure to others and limit any further exposure – and start the process of quarantining and testing for all involved.
  • Enforcement of Masking/Distancing Policies: Like contact tracing, the video captured by the systems can be used to enforce masking and distancing policies. For example, if you receive a complaint from a parent that the bus driver wasn’t wearing their mask, you could easily review the video to confirm or deny the claim. Likewise for students, if complaints are made that they’re not wearing masks or following social distancing requirements, you can pull that video and get the proof you need to address those complaints in the correct manner.
  • Hands-Free Data Retrieval: Depending on the system, there are features available to help you better manage your bus fleet with more hands-free operation to limit potential exposure. Systems that allow for wireless file transfer can help with that effort. You can configure the system so that when it connects to a configured 4G or Wi-Fi connection, it can automatically upload that video to your storage location – all without anyone having to touch any equipment or enter multiple buses just to pull SD cards.

How Do ESSER Funds Work and How Do I Apply?

As we touched on, there have been three rounds of ESSER funding made available through each stimulus package:

  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020
  • The Coronavirus Response & Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) in December 2020
  • The American Rescue Plan (ARP) in March 2021

According to the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), each state received funds based on the same proportion they receive under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title-IA. The states then have to distribute at least 90% of the allocated funds to local education agencies (LEAs) based on their proportional share of the ESEA funds. In the link, you’ll see a breakdown of the amount of ESSER funding each state has received through all three funding opportunities.

From there, LEAs can apply for funding through their respective State Education Agencies (SEAs). For example, in Michigan you would go to the Michigan Department of Education (DOE) and apply for ESSER funding through its MEGS+ portal.

In regards to funding timing, the U.S. Office of Elementary & Secondary Education (OESE) states that all SEAs must award ESSER funds to LEAs within a year of receiving them.

In that timeline, the first round of funding that came in the CARES Act last March should already be distributed by now. For the second (CRRSA) and third (ARP) round of stimulus funds, those funds can still be applied for given the timeframe of their release.

For school districts looking to get funds, now is the time check in with your SEA and see how to apply for these latest rounds of funds. Each state has its own specific deadlines for applying for these last two rounds of funding, so be sure to ask your SEA what deadlines they’re working with.

Do I Qualify?

According to the OESE, if an LEA received a Fiscal Year 2019 Title I, Part A subgrant for the 2019-2020 school year, it is eligible to apply for ESSER funds. If the LEA did not receive a Title 1 subgrant for that period, it wouldn’t be eligible to apply. But there are two exceptions to this rule in regards to charter schools:

  • If a new charter school didn’t exist in the 2019-2020 school year but exists now, it can still apply
  • If a significant expansion makes the charter school eligible for Title 1, Part A funds in the 2020-2021 school year, it can apply

The OESE says the SEAs cannot limit how schools use the ESSER funds, but the federal government has a rundown of the broad uses a school can utilize ESSER funds for. In this link, Section 18003.d on Pg. 6 has a full rundown of the 12 ways these funds can be used. Purchasing technology such as school bus video recording systems is covered under a few different criteria – mostly the ninth criteria that allows for purchasing technology to cover a wide range of uses.

Let Pro-Vision Help You Protect Your Community & Secure Crucial Funding

From School Bus Video Recording Systems to Touchless IR Thermometers, Pro-Vision has the safety solutions you need to keep your students and community safe from COVID-19. Our staff is ready to assist you in your efforts to secure ESSER funds for safety technology, so don’t wait to contact us!