School district uses COVID funds for summer programs


Flying drones, tie-dyeing and e-sports were among the activities offered in programs run by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District this summer. The school district used federal COVID-19 relief money to fund the programs.

According to KPBSD Director of Elementary Education Eric Pederson, who spoke about programming at the KPBSD board meeting on July 12, the programs focused on student literacy, well-being emotional physical and social, STEAM, alternative high school credit recovery and traditional credit recovery. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

The Literacy Boost program, for example, provided lifelong education to district students from Kindergarten to Grade 3 who received intervention services during the school year. This program offered four hours of instruction four times a week and saw 25 certified teachers working with 252 students.

Pederson said that in developing summer programming, the district wanted to offer acceleration and enrichment in addition to remedial work programs.

“It wasn’t just about catching up on mastering concepts from the previous semester, but rather preparing students for the present and the future,” said Pederson.

He added that teachers in the district were responsive to the needs of students during the most recent school year and had the opportunity to present summer programming ideas to the school district through a process that he compared to ABC’s Shark Tank.

“This district has some really creative and dedicated teachers working for them,” said Pederson.

Natalie Kant, who is a counselor at Skyview Middle School, ran two night camps organized at the middle school, including a drone camp and a computer camp. Kant shared the positive responses to the survey of children who attended the camps and said the programs encourage ‘fun’ learning through unique activities.

“In my 30 years of teaching, this is the funniest thing I have ever put together,” Kant said.

The summer programming made possible by federal COVID funding is in addition to a summer employment program that was offered to students with disabilities. This program, made possible through a partnership between the district and the Alaska Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, placed participating students at local businesses to gain hands-on work experience.

Olivia Orth, who teaches special education at Soldotna High School and helped run the program, said the program worked with students to tackle everything from showing up for work on time, to what to wear to their first day of work, how to fill out important papers. At the end of the week, Orth said they were getting together to talk about what went well and what was difficult.

In total, the school district has received three rounds of federal COVID-19 relief funding, which comes from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER.

KPBSD received approximately $ 2.3 million in initial ESSER funds under the federal CARES Act, just over $ 9 million in ESSER II funds through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, and approximately 20, $ 4 million in ESSER III funds through the American Rescue Plan Act. Twenty percent of ESSER III funding, or roughly $ 4 million, must be set aside for learning loss recovery.

KPBSD Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Hayes said on Monday that the first round of ESSER funds were spent in fiscal year 21, which began on June 30, 2020 and ended on July 1, 2021, including for summer programming. On the other hand, the ESSER II and ESSER III funds will be over the next three years. ESSER II funds must be spent by June 30, 2023 and ESSER III funds must be spent by June 30, 2024.

The full KPBSD Education Council meeting on July 12 can be found on the district media page at

Contact reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at [email protected]

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