Maine has been awarded more than $183 million for K-12 schools as part of the latest federal coronavirus relief package, the U.S. Department of Education announced this week.

The funding is part of $81.9 billion for education in the $900 billion stimulus package approved by Congress and signed by the president last month. It comes as schools in Maine continue efforts to offer some in-person instruction to students amid the surging pandemic.

In a letter to state education commissioners Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos urged them to use the money to safely reopen schools, to measure and effectively address learning loss, and to take other actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on students and families. DeVos also pushed for in-person instruction, saying there is no reason many children “are still locked out.”

“I urge you to use the funding to safely reopen all elementary and secondary schools as soon as possible, to restore and maintain high-quality learning environments, and to take comprehensive action to mitigate the unprecedented learning loss that many of our most vulnerable students have endured,” DeVos said. “I know these have been extraordinarily challenging times for both educators and administrators, but we must rise to meet this challenge.”

The parameters around using the new funding differs slightly from the first round awarded last spring through the CARES Act. Schools have longer deadlines to spend the money, with the new funds available through Sept. 30, 2023.

States also are required to submit a report to the department detailing how they plan to measure and address learning loss among students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and school closures, including low-income students, English language learners, minority students and those experiencing homelessness.

Maine’s K-12 schools were awarded about $44 million through the federal Department of Education in the initial coronavirus relief funding last April. Maine also received $16.9 million as one of 11 states awarded federal grant funding to develop and pilot new models for remote learning, and another $9.3 million through an education fund for governors. In addition, the state set aside more than $300 million in coronavirus relief funds for schools.

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