Funding P2: ARP ESSER

By Melissa Killingbeck

(NOTE: To read an ESSER FAQ updated on December 4, 2022 by the U.S. Department of Education, please go here.)

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
P2 Curriculum Manager

Melissa Killingbeck is the Curriculum Manager for The Positivity Project and ensures our resources are at their highest quality. Melissa earned her bachelor's degree and teaching certificate in elementary education and holds a Master's in Education with certification in K-12 administration. Before joining the P2 team, Melissa was a successful P2 Partner School principal in Flushing, Michigan, where she worked for 25 years as a teacher, instructional coach, and principal. After retiring from public education in 2019, Melissa relocated to northern Michigan with her husband Casey and their Silver Lab, Tank. When not knee-deep in P2 resources, Melissa can be found rockhounding along a lakeshore, enjoying a boat ride with Casey and Tank, or "downstate" visiting their two grown children.