Funding P2: ARP ESSER

By Melissa Killingbeck

As school communities across the U.S. rapidly approach the end of an unprecedented school year, planning for 2021-2022 is already underway in most districts. In preparing for the future — and hopefully, a return to some normalcy — high on the priority list for many schools is to ensure that critical social-emotional learning and mental health supports remain intact for students, families, and staff.  

As arduous as this past year has been, there are silver linings to be found. Included among these is the long-overdue support of historically underfunded programs — like those that support SEL and mental health — through a variety of COVID-19 relief acts. On March 27, 2020, and on December 27, 2020, the federal government mandated a combined total of nearly $100 billion in COVID-19 relief aid to K-12 education through the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER).  Referred to as ESSER I and ESSER II Funds, respectively, these aid packages have provided much-needed relief to schools in the wake of the pandemic. And, as recently as March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act infused an additional $122 billion — labeled ARP ESSER Funds — bringing the total of COVID-19 relief aid provided to K-12 education to just over $220 billion.   

The US Department of Education recently published a Fact Sheet highlighting essential facts for schools regarding ARP ESSER Funds, noting that these funds “may be used for a wide range of activities to address needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic.” 

Allowable uses include but are not limited to:

  • The same permissible purposes as ESSER I and ESSER II Funds, including supporting students’ social and emotional needs
  • Acquiring licenses or creating activities for digital content that supports the mental health needs of students
  • Contracting with partners to expand support for behavioral and mental health in schools
  • Providing development opportunities and informational resources to parents, students, and community members on student well-being

ARP ESSER Funds may be used for pre-award costs dating back to March 13, 2020, and for obligations through September 30, 2024 (including the 12-month Tyding’s Amendment period), making it an excellent option for schools to cover the costs associated with a multi-year P2 Partnership. 

By implementing P2, schools are taking proactive steps to build a positive school climate and culture in three very intentional ways by supporting students, staff, and families:

  1. Through daily digital lessons, delivered through Google Slides and differentiated for every grade from Pre K-12, students learn about positive psychology’s 24 character strengths and the Other People Mindset. This consistency helps individual students develop self-determination and empathy, which we believe are the building blocks of positive relationships and a person’s best self. 
  2. P2 for Families (P2F2) provides an easy and effective way for parents and caregivers to connect meaningful conversations about character strengths and positive relationships at school to their own homes.
  3. P2 for Educators (P2E) has been explicitly developed for Partner School principals to use with their staff. P2E resources support meaningful professional development that enhances school climate, culture, and well-being by deliberately engaging staff, as adults, with lessons on the importance of positive relationships and character strengths in their own lives.

If you would like more information about how your school can join other P2 Partner Schools that have already committed to providing ongoing SEL support to their students, families, and staff through a multi-year P2 partnership, please contact us here.  

Melissa Killingbeck

Melissa Killingbeck is the Michigan State Leader for The Positivity Project. Prior to retiring from public education in 2019, Melissa proudly served as an elementary teacher, instructional coach, and principal in the Flushing school district for 25 years. Melissa is passionate about P2, and as an elementary principal, helped lead her staff and students in its successful implementation. She has witnessed first hand the power of P2 and is “Fired Up” and honored to have the opportunity to help grow and support this powerful movement throughout the Mitten State. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Michigan-Flint, a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Marygrove College, and a Certificate of K-12 Administration from Eastern Michigan University. Melissa resides in Hubbard Lake, Michigan with her husband Casey, also a retired P2 principal, and their two children, Molly & Jack, both of whom attend Michigan State University - Go Green!