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US Department of Education approves $138m for R.I. schools

The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund and will help reopen schools safely post pandemic

Cumberland High School students cross Mendon Road in Cumberland, R.I.Carlos Muñoz

PROVIDENCE — The U.S. Department of Education has approved Rhode Island’s plans to use its $138 million in American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) and distributed the funds to the state.

Rhode Island will use the money to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of the state’s K-12 schools and “equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most, particularly those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the education department.

Earlier this year, the department distributed two thirds of the APR ESSER funds, which totaled $81 billion, to 50 states and Washington D.C. The remaining third of the funding to states were made available once state plans were approved.


Rhode Island is receiving more than $415 million in ARP and ESSER funds, and Wednesday’s release of funds are the final $138 million of that allotment.

Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said Wednesday that the state convened the Learning, Equity & Accelerated Pathways (LEAP) Task Force to help students not just recover from the learning disruption of the pandemic, but also “leap ahead to academic success.”

“Our goal is not remediation but rather acceleration in education with a focus on ensuring equity across the board,” said Infante-Green. “With input from the communities we serve, leading education experts, and many other stakeholders, we built a roadmap for strategic, sustainable and impactful state-wide ESSER investments that will help us get students back to in-person learning, improve attendance, promote academic achievement and address existing inequities laid bare by the pandemic.”

Infante-Green assured that these funds are a “once-in-a-generation” investment to ensure that every student in Rhode Island has access to a high-quality learning experience.

“It is heartening to see, reflected in these state plans, the ways in which states are thinking deeply about how to use American Rescue Plan funds to continue to provide critical support to schools and communities, particularly as we move into the summer and look ahead to the upcoming academic year,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement Wednesday.


Cardona said the fundswill be used to reopen schools in Rhode Island full-time for in-person learning, but will also help meet students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental needs. He said the plan is to also address disparities in access to educational opportunities that were exacerbated by the pandemic.

“The state plans that have been submitted to the Department lay the groundwork for the ways in which an unprecedented infusion of federal resources will be used to address the urgent needs of America’s children and build back better,” said Cardona.

Also on Wednesday, the department approved school plans for South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz.