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American Rescue Plan Act in APS: Beyond Sufficiency

The America Rescue plan offers an unprecedented $230 million dollar opportunity for Albuquerque Public schools to move forward in education in our district and state.

 These funds offer an opportunity to define  what it means to provide a sufficient education to each and every one of our students. Before the pandemic New Mexico education operated in crisis. The state of New Mexico was in the midst of discussing an order by Judge Singleton in Yazzie v. Martinez (2018)  which determined that our state is not sufficiently funding education. Without any solid consensus and commitment to solutions, the pandemic hit. 

The pandemic brought us new obstacles, new opportunities, and truly, new promise. The federal funds can be used to address the pre-existing obstacles in our state, the realities of inequities illuminated by the experience of pandemic education, and the path forward to a sufficiently funded education. 

Beyond Sufficiency is the APS federal funding plan, aligned to our strategic pillars, to provide high quality academic experiences and equity driven instruction so that each student can move into the future as healthy and contributing citizens in our community. To heal from the pandemic and provide life changing, academic experiences, we must be attentive, and intentional with funding instructional improvements, social and emotional needs, and accelerated and enriched student learning through a holistic, equity-based approach. 

The America Rescue Plan Act

The American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (“ARP ESSER”) Fund, authorized under the American Rescue Plan (“ARP”) Act of 2021, provides nearly $122 billion to States to support the Nation’s schools in safely reopening and sustaining safe operations of schools while meeting the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of students resulting from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID) pandemic. It is particularly important that ARP ESSER funding will enable States and local educational agencies (“LEAs”), and more directly schools, to support students who have been most severely impacted by the COVID pandemic and are likely to have suffered the most because of longstanding inequities in our communities and schools that have been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.

The ARP ESSER funds may be used to address the many impacts of COVID on pre-K through 12 education, including:

  • Investing in resources to implement CDC's K-12 operational strategy for in-person learning to keep educators, staff, and students safe; improving ventilation; purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE); and obtaining additional space to ensure social distancing in classrooms.
  • Avoiding devastating layoffs and hiring additional educators to address learning loss, providing support to students and existing staff, and providing sufficient staffing to facilitate social distancing.
  • Implementing strategies to meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students hit hardest by the pandemic, including through evidence-based interventions and critical services like community schools.
  • Funding crucial summer, afterschool, and other extended learning and enrichment programs.
  • Hiring additional school personnel, such as nurses and custodial staff, to keep schools safe and healthy.
  • Providing for social distancing and safety protocols on buses.
  • Funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and devices for students without connectivity for remote learning and supporting educators in the effective use of technology; and
  • Additional uses as allowed in the statute.

Building a Spending Plan

Districtwide, we will support the safe reopening of schools, student and staff, social and emotional needs, accelerated learning, and more efficient or new ways to prepare students for successful lives beyond the pandemic. Within school communities, we are doubling down on equity-based, individualized, high-dosage tutoring for students and empowering school leaders and instructional staff with the tools to rebuild the educational experience.

To develop Beyond Sufficiency, we incorporated feedback from school leaders, teachers, students, parents, and community partners regarding the support needed to help students, staff and families during this unique and challenging time. This initial plan centers on input from our community, and the immediate needs to reopen schools and respond to crises.

APS will have approximately $230 million devoted to Beyond Sufficiency for the next three school years. In September 2022, the district will conduct additional community engagement to help assess the early impact of these resources. While the district has outlined a framework for a three-year plan, leadership, community and staff feedback will be used to determine if adjustments are needed for the second year of implementation, and an updated plan will be outlined next year.

Schools will receive support, resources and training through a variety of programs and initiatives that meet the needs of their own school communities APS commits these targeted investments and research-backed supports through the end of the ARP funding, September 2024.

Summary of Investments

To ensure resources reach the students most in need of support, we will distribute our investment in three ways: unfinished learning initiatives, social emotional and mental health services, technology initiatives, facility projects, and safe operations of schools with COVID precautions. 

Learning Loss, Unfinished Learning

The America Rescue Plan specifically requires school districts to earmark no less than 20% of the total appropriation to address “learning loss” through the  implementation of evidence-based interventions. School districts must ensure that those interventions respond to  students’ social, emotional, and academic needs and address the disproportionate impact of  COVID on underrepresented student subgroups (each major racial and ethnic group, children from low-income families, children with disabilities, English learners, gender, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children and youth in foster care). 

In APS we prefer the term “unfinished learning” and we think it is more than semantics. Unfinished learning acknowledges that learning did happen during the closure of the school buildings. And even more to the point, we want to meet students wherever they are and use acceleration and enrichment to catapult them into a brighter future. We believe “learning loss” makes us focus on the negative experiences and the deficits of students and “unfinished learning” starts with the assets.

Our educators will screen students and determine the best resources at the exact, right time, to fill in any gaps of unfinished learning. The intentional use of “unfinished learning” also guided our funding decisions so we could fund our schools to support each student.

Our funding decisions celebrate the linguistic, cultural and academic assets of our students. Our funding decisions prioritize student programs that offer acceleration and enrichment and educator training that supports their role as leaders of communities that are charged with transformation, creating safe spaces for social, emotional development and providing rigorous academic expectations. 

APS unfinished learning funding
ProjectInvestmentPoint of Contact
Principal Mentorship and Extended time - Tier 4 System of Support (34 Schools) $28 million Yvonne Garcia
Transformational Leadership- Tier 3 System of Support (30 schools) $3 million Yvonne Garcia
Math Discovery Academy- middle school summer program $161,000 Stephanie Fascitelli
Expansion of Elementary Summer Learning Adventures $11.4 million Yvonne Garcia
High dosage, targeted tutoring $2.25 million Yvonne Garcia
Professional Development and for educators: culturally and linguistically responsive instructional materials $16.5 million Jessica Villalobos, Rachel Altobelli, Tanya Campos
Social Emotional Training for teachers $1 million Yvonne Garcia
Fundations, Elementary reading program $2.35 million Jami Jacobson
Literacy training for Elementary teachers $4.5 million Yvonne Garcia
Computer Science/STEM Summer Experiences, Grades 6-12 $1,526,500 Amy Chase
Targeted high school summer programs for Indian Education, Newcomers, and Bilingual Seals $500,000 Jessica Villalobos, Rachel Altobelli, Phil Farson
Professional development for new and novice teachers $750,000 Yvonne Garcia
Professional development for new teacher training $25,000 Yvonne Garcia

Prioritizing Students with Highest Need 

The America Rescue Plan first asks districts to open schools safely and reintegrate those students most disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and school closure. The ARP was the third round of federal funding. It allows us to respond to crisis, but also move beyond crisis and into possibility. 

Academic Intervention 

The core, evidence-based response to academic intervention is tutoring. To address unfinished learning, students need personalized, high-dosage tutoring. All schools can gain access to funding to provide stipends to educators who can craft school-based tutoring opportunities. 

Supports For Most Vulnerable  

Albuquerque Public Schools is a large, urban school district with almost 70% of our students qualifying for free or reduced lunches. We know there are students in our district who depend on schools not just for learning, but for health, safety, nutrition, and many other basic human supports. During school closure, the most vulnerable students lost this connection to school; they lost some classroom instructional time but they also lost a lot of their safety net and support system. We know reintegration back into school life from the pandemic is a long-term commitment, but we also have a surge of need for services and resources that we believe may be short-term, as long as we can make critical investments now with the federal funds. The federal funds allow us to staff up and reach out with crisis response care and case management. We will use federal funds to focus on recovery services for students in special education, case management for foster care students, therapeutic, contracted services and other mental health and whole child supports. 

Sustainable Expansion of Virtual Learning

Long before the pandemic, APS had invested in an online learning high school through our magnet school initiative. At the start of the pandemic, many students and families of younger students grew concerned about returning to in-person school or found they enjoyed the virtual learning experience. In response, APS expanded online learning by opening a new school, to expand the eCademy virtual learning school experience for grades Kindergarten through grade eight. When students returned to in-person learning for the 2020-2021 school year, eCademy, K-8 enrollment ended the year with 1,800 students. A year later, the enrollment at K-8 eCademy for the 2021-2022 school year is about 1,200 students. This model was a necessary option during the height of the pandemic. We created this school out of the response to the crisis of the pandemic, but it is now a community we will continue to sustain. 

Prioritizing the most vulnerable funding
ProjectInvestmentPoint of Contact
High dosage, targeted tutoring. (*Also listed in unfinished learning.) $2.25 million Yvonne Garcia
Foster care case manager $70,000 Stephanie Browne
Social Emotional Training for teachers. (*Also listed in unfinished learning.) $1 million Yvonne Garcia
Therapeutic contracted services, agency nurses, community health providers $860,000 Kristine Meurer
eCademy K-8 expansion and maintenance $5 million Mark Garcia

Resources Promises to Every School

The district is working to ensure that each school has the resources needed to provide a sufficient education to every student out of this unprecedented funding opportunity. Every student, in every school and neighborhood deserves access to high quality educators and support staff, materials and support. Though 20% of funds must be dedicated to “learning loss,” the remaining funds may be used for a wide range of activities including addressing continued pandemic needs, existing allowable uses and federal programs  authorized by the ESEA, the  Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), or Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins  CTE).    

Social, Emotional, and Whole Child Centered Resources

FY23 will support all schools in having their own behavioral and mental health teams and support the whole child needs of students are met through district resources like therapeutic services, nurses, and behavior redirectors. The federal funding also offers the district the opportunity to put funds towards the continued expansion of our goal to bring fine arts to every elementary school. This commitment to fine arts represents the elementary school environment that our school board and district believe every child deserves. 

Social, emotional and whole child centered resources funding.
ProjectInvestmentPoint of Contact
Therapeutic contracted services, agency nurses, community health providers (*also listed in prioritizing the most vulnerable) $860,000 Kristine Meurer
Behavior redirectors $1.6 million Kristine Meurer
Nurses and COVID support $612,580 Kristine Meurer
Fine Arts implementation (9 schools) $1.1 million Gina Rasinski

Academic Enrichment and Acceleration

Every school should be resourced to provide an academically rich environment for all students. The district also provides resources for programs to provide specialty programs with intention to the students who need them the most. The federal funds allow expansion of the successful and popular, districtwide APS summer programs for elementary students.

More importantly, these funds allow us to design summer programs with greater intention and in an equity mindset. Expansion of summer programs will include high school credit recovery programs intentionally designed to support high school students seeking bilingual seals for graduation, to Native American students, newcomer refugee students needing credit or academic intervention, and to special education students with high school credit recovery.

These students faced unique obstacles to learning during the pandemic but we will also learn lessons about how to restructure our summer school programs into the future. Other summer programs, like math discovery academy will target gifted, middle school students who seek enrichment and a summer STEM/Computer science program will boost both student and teacher confidence in spurring the implementation of computer science in our middle and high schools. Finally, funds are directed to support the expansion of ESports. 

Academic enrichment and acceleration funding
ProjectInvestmentPoint of Contact
ESports Support $36,000 Richard Bowman
Math Discovery Academy- middle school summer program (*also listed in unfinished learning) $161,000 Stephanie Fascitelli
Expansion of Elementary Summer Learning Adventures (*also listed in unfinished learning) $11.4 million Yvonne Garcia
Computer Science/STEM Summer Experiences, Grades 6-12 (*also listed in unfinished learning) $1,526,500 Amy Chase
Targeted high school summer programs for Indian Education, Newcomers, and Bilingual Seals (*also listed in unfinished learning) $500,000 Jessica Villalobos, Phil Farson, Brandon Baca

Classroom Technology Investments

When the pandemic forced school buildings to close, APS was not a one-to-one district. We pivoted and provided a device to every student, providing internet access to other students. We learned a lot about internet access in our city and for our students. Students, teachers, families and all educators found new ways to learn, teach and connect through technology.

As hard as isolation was during the pandemic, the giant step forward in educational technology is a reform we intend to continue. Until we can identify new and sustainable funding sources, we must continue to maintain our resources, and the federal funding is critical to that bridge to a new day in teaching and learning. The classroom technology funded out of the America Rescue Plan includes chromebooks and hot-spots for students and digital presentation boards, improved internet capacity and wireless access for schools and classrooms. 

Classroom technology investments funding
ProjectInvestmentPoint of Contact
Chromebooks and other devices $9 million Richard Bowman
Wireless access improvements $3 million Richard Bowman
Interactive classroom boards $4 million Richard Bowman
Internet hot-spots for students $1 million Richard Bowman
Expanded internet capacity $3 million Richard Bowman

Health and Safety Facility Upgrades

The pandemic highlighted pre-existing inequities and identified problems long neglected, including the deep needs of school buildings throughout the country. The pandemic, specifically,  provided lessons about air flow in classrooms. The comprehensive depth of need among our 141 schools far exceeds the total federal funding package, but we can target some funding now to address some of the critical updates related to health and safety in our schools to improve water access and air flow. Our maintenance and operations department logs several hours servicing aged HVAC systems. HVAC upgrades will improve not just the air flow in classrooms and the comfort of the learning environment, but also the efficiency by which our maintenance and operations staff can tackle other needs in our school buildings. 

The Albuquerque Public Schools Facilities Support and Operations Team oversees 168 buildings exceeding 16M square feet. During our extensive preparation for school re-opening on April 5th, 2021, we identified 3 key areas to improve our facilities that coincide precisely with ARP ESSER ‘use of funds’ guidance.

Water Quality: Re-Piping

Water quality in our schools has always been a priority to ensure a safe and equitable learning environment for our over 80000+ students. We have identified 15 primary candidate school locations with aging infrastructure and early indicators of corrosion in our piping infrastructure.

APS Re-piping Schools

Arroyo Del Oso ES, Bandelier ES, Bel-Air ES, Bellehaven ES, Carlos Rey ES, Cleveland MS, Coronado ES, Dolores Gonzales ES, Eugene Field ES, Freedom HS, Hawthorne ES, Jackson MS, Monte Vista ES, Sandia HS, and Whittier ES.

Window Replacement

One ventilation shortcoming at APS during COVID reopening related to the operation of windows for ventilation. Aging windows in combination with some design considerations present an opportunity to greatly improve ventilation in these identified areas.

APS Window Replacement Schools

Highland HS, Bandelier ES, Eugene Field ES, East San Jose ES, and Whittier ES.

Air Conditioning and Ventilation Improvement

Another ventilation shortcoming at APS during COVID re-opening relates to widespread use of evaporative coolers (swamp coolers) with boiler based radiant heating systems. Evaporative coolers are limited from an ‘air filtration’ perspective in that they directly feed outside air into the classroom space. In the winter, we have removed isolation dampers and utilized the fans to improve ventilation in the classrooms with the heating system trying to overcome the cold outside air coming into the classroom in a less than optimal fashion. We are proposing to replace our evaporative coolers with small (2-3 ton) filtered refrigerated air systems at a cost of approximately $12,000 each for each classroom identified below in our first phase of 35 schools. (Our boiler based radiant heat systems will remain in place and continue to operate as they do today).

APS Cooling System Replacement Schools

Adobe Acres ES, Alameda ES, Alamosa ES, Alvarado ES, Apache ES, Atrisco ES, Bel Air ES, Cleveland MS, Corrales ES, Duranes ES, East San Jose ES, Emerson ES, Freedom HS, Garfield STEM Magnet & Community School, Governor Bent ES, Hodgin ES, Inez ES, John Adams MS, Kennedy MS, Kirtland ES, La Luz ES, Los Ranchos ES, Lowell ES, MacArthur ES, Mark Twain ES, McCollum ES, McKinley MS, Mission Avenue ES, Montezuma ES, Sombra del Monte ES, Valle Vista ES, Van Buren MS, Whittier ES, Zia ES, Zuni ES.

Health and safety facility upgrades funding
ProjectInvestmentPoint of Contact
Water re-piping $4.95 million John Dufay
Window replacement $6,797,200 John Dufay
HVAC upgrades, replacements $16,584,000 John Dufay

Classroom Instructional Materials

This enhances our existing efforts to provide students with culturally and responsive materials through diverse texts. Part of the APS response to Yazzie/Martinez is to create classroom environments that are culturally and linguistically responsive to all learners. The federal funds provide the opportunity to bring all ideas together in a comprehensive plan for implementation. Through the collaboration of several APS leaders, this group of federal funds is coordinated to align professional development and resources to respond to Yazzie/Martinez in a more immediate way than possible with normal, annual funding. 

Classroom Instructional Materials funding
ProjectInvestmentPoint of Contact
Professional Development for educators and culturally and linguistically responsive instructional materials (*also listed in unfinished learning) $16.5 million Rachel Altobelli, Jessica Villalobos, Tanya Campos

High Quality Professional Development 

School leaders are critical to leading the path to define what it means to sufficiently fund an education in our communities. Investing in our educators' growth is an effective way to support student growth. This professional development funding will build the capacity of educational staff, including supporting new teachers. 

High quality professional development funding
ProjectInvestmentPoint of Contact
Principal Mentorship and Extended time- Tier 4 System of Support (34 Schools) (*also listed in unfinished learning) $28 million Yvonne Garcia
Transformational Leadership- Tier 3 System of Support (30 schools) (*also listed in unfinished learning) $3 million Yvonne Garcia
Professional development for new and novice teachers (*also listed in unfinished learning) $750,000 Yvonne Garcia
Professional development for new teacher training (*also listed in unfinished learning) $25,000 Yvonne Garcia

Safe Operations of Schools

The pandemic did not just shut schools, it changed them. Our workforce is different and our students and student enrollment numbers are different. Our annual operational budget is based on student enrollment from the previous year. Normally this helps us plan, staff and prepare for students in the coming year. The student enrollment fluctuations due to the pandemic, however, provide no certainty or predictive ability to budget, but we know we must stay staffed up to meet the needs of the students and community no matter how great the fluctuation. This means we will need to use federal funding to stabilize our budget and stay staffed so we are ready to serve our community or be prepared to accept that it simply costs more to serve students when they face greater challenges and needs. 

Safe operation of schools funding
ProjectInvestmentPoint of Contact
Transportation incentives $80,000 Royce Binns
Budget stabilization $50 million Tami Coleman

Future Planning

This unprecedented opportunity should not pass us by without taking time to think about the possibilities for the future of education. The funding opportunity is also a reflection and community input opportunity. We can only build better schools if we build schools that serve the needs of our students, families, and communities. The big challenges to Albuquerque Public Schools before the pandemic are now critical to address. We face declining enrollment in our city, district and state and aging facilities. We need to redesign our physical schools and educational programming to engage and excite all learners, accelerate student achievement, create laser focus on high school graduation, and design an education that leads to successful futures for our students as fulfilled members of our community and satisfied members of the workforce. 

Frameworks for the Future

Responding to the crisis, reopening schools and reintegrating students and staff are the primary goals of the spending with the federal funds, but the opportunity to infuse money into schools is rare so we are investing in dreaming big and planning for the future. Some funds will be used to develop a mission and vision for college and career readiness programs in our secondary schools, to create a template for early childhood hubs, to study the impact of an extended educator professional day and to scale up a school transformational framework for embedded extended learning. We know the future challenges to APS, and the responses to Yazzie/Martinez mean we need to chart new territory for college and career readiness, early academic achievement, and school transformation. These federal funds can help us not only respond to crises but also to imagine an educational environment that is beyond sufficiency. 

Frameworks for the future
ProjectInvestmentPoint of Contact
College and career readiness vision development $600,000 Karen Webb
8-hour professional workday pilot $12 million Amanda DeBell
Early childhood hubs design funding $3 million Kiztio Wijenje, Mary Ellen Farrelly

Workforce and Community Commitments

Communication is critical to education. School buildings were closed without warning and stayed closed for a full school year beyond the initial shut down in March 2020, but learning happened and students stayed connected to their schools. Knowledge about COVID changes daily and we continue to live in a world of shifting procedures to adapt to new crises and new information. Without expanded human resources to support communication, the whole enterprise of education would come to a grinding halt.

We are investing federal dollars to provide critical information but also to maintain the lessons we have learned from the pandemic about how and why students, families, and communities want to engage with our schools and contribute to the comprehensive education of students.

We are also investing in supporting educators to repay loans and setting aside money for other unexpected expenses related to the evolution of maintaining COVID- safe schools. In addition, the district authorizes thirty-two charter schools, who will all receive a distribution of ESSER III funds from APS. The federal funds in totality represent a commitment to the community. 

Workforce and community commitment funding
ProjectInvestmentPoint of Contact
Student loan repayment (up to $5,250 per employee) $1 million Todd Torgerson
Communication $250,000 Monica Armenta
COVID related costs $1,269,690 Tami Coleman
Charter school allocations (32 APS charter schools) $24,478,687 Joseph Escobedo
Indirect Cost $6,925,420 Tami Coleman

Progress Monitoring

Albuquerque Public Schools created a progress monitoring committee to engage in ongoing conversations with stakeholders about the use of these funds in APS. This committee will monitor transparency, efficiency and the use of data-based decision making throughout the duration of this funding. The America Rescue Plan Act funding must be spent by September 2024. The progress monitoring committee will create a feedback loop to help keep our district leaders mindful of monitoring outcomes and results of this unprecedented funding. We hope this process will lead to new ways to inform future law, policy, and practices. 

The progress monitoring committee will interview a representative from each funded project initiative as they begin to access the funding. The conversation will be guided by a rubric created by the committee to understand the project as it relates to transparency, efficiency, and data-based decision making. The committee will provide feedback to the leaders of each project with suggestions, support, and recommendations. We will also inform the Superintendent, and other stakeholders as needed.