Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced the approval of the American Samoa Department of Education’s (ASDOE) American Rescue Plan Outlying Areas State Educational Agency (ARP-OA SEA) implementation plan. ASDOE’s plan details how American Rescue Plan funds will be used to sustain the safe operation of schools and equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most, particularly those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department released the Return To School Roadmap, which provides key resources and supports for students, parents, educators, and school communities to build excitement around returning to classrooms this school year and outlines how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning. American Rescue Plan funds can be used to support students and educators as they recover from lost instructional time, including in ways outlined in the Roadmap.
“I am excited to announce approval of the American Samoa Department of Education plan,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “It is heartening to see, reflected in these plans, the ways in which education systems are thinking deeply about how to use American Rescue Plan funds to continue to provide critical support to schools and communities. The approval of these plans enables education systems to receive vital, additional American Rescue Plan funds to help keep schools open for full-time, in-person learning; meet students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs; and address disparities in access to educational opportunity that were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The 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.”
“On behalf of the American Samoa Department of Education, I am honored to receive the approval of the American Rescue Plan Outlying Areas implementation plan by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) of $264 million,” said ASDOE Acting Director Dr. Teresa Leiato-Atuatasi.“Our students deserve our best,” and we are hopeful that the ASDOE ARP reflects the continued partnership with the community and stakeholders to assist our students. By implementing the approved ARP-OA implementation plan, all public and non-public schools will be able to extend supportive learning opportunities, employ social-emotional learning to address the effects of the pandemic, and mitigate the threat of the spread of the disease. We extend our appreciation and gratitude to USED for their approval of the ASDOE plan to support our students. In moving forward, the ASDOE’s ARP action plan will empower our students to work collaboratively with school leaders and staff, community members, and their peers to address the challenges of the pandemic together. Lastly, I want to recognize our Federal Grants Office team for the tremendous work in diligently completing, revising, and finalizing the ASDOE’s implementation plan.”
The implementation plan approved by the Department today outlines how federal pandemic funds are supporting safe, in-person instruction and the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students—with a focus on the students most impacted by the pandemic. For example:
- Returning to In–Person Learning in 2021: ASDOE will undertake several improvement projects to prepare school facilities to maximize the number of students schools are able to serve. Through the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Playground Center Project, ASDOE seeks to develop outdoor play areas/playgrounds for ECE centers to promote social distancing and encourage outdoor play and ensure the accessibility of playgrounds and/or outdoor play areas for children with special needs. The ECE and Elementary Libraries Projects will ensure that all ECE centers are equipped with mini libraries. All elementary school libraries will undergo renovations and improvements, which include updated books and resources. Through the School Cafeteria Infrastructure Implementation Project, ASDOE will improve the infrastructure of all school site cafeterias to accommodate the needs of students and to ensure the health and safety of all those in the school community.
- Addressing the Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: ASDOE will invest in online and computer-based resources to support classroom instruction. Secondary school students will benefit from the use of math resources, through online programs, during the regular school day, after school, and summer school. Staff will receive training to support students in using these programs.
- Investing in Summer Learning and Expanded Afterschool Programs:ASDOE is committed to preparing its students for careers and education after high school. ASDOE will use a portion of ARP funding to support a number of career and technical trade programs for elementary through high school students. Programs will expose students to careers in fields such as robotics, electricity, woodworking, farming, drafting, auto body and welding, basic sewing, and basic cooking.
The ARP-OA SEA Fund, authorized under Section 2005 of the ARP Act of 2021, provides $850 million for the Secretary of Education to allocate to the Outlying Areas (American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands)based on their respective needs. The Secretary allocated these funds to support safely reopening and sustaining safe operations of schools while meeting the academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs of students resulting from the pandemic.
Today’s approval of the implementation plan is part of the Department’s broader effort to support teachers and other educators as they work to reengage students impacted by the pandemic, address inequities exacerbated by COVID-19, and build our education system back better than before. In addition to providing $130 billion for K-12 education in the American Rescue Plan to support the safe reopening of K-12 schools and meet the needs of all students, the Biden-Harris Administration also has:
- Held the Return To School Road Trip, a bus tour that visited schools across five states in five days to celebrate the safe return to school.
- Announced new mental health resources to provide information and resources to enhance the promotion of mental health and the social and emotional well-being among children and students.
- Launched the Return To School Roadmap to provide key resources and supports for students, parents, educators, and school communities and outline how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning.
- Released three volumes of the COVID-19 Handbook.
- Hosted a National Safe School Reopening Summit.
- Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff, and childcare workers.
- Provided $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing for preK-12 educators, staff, and students.
- Launched a series of equity summits focused on addressing inequities that existed before but were made worse by the pandemic.
- Released a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on underserved communities.
- Developed a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse elevating hundreds of best practices to support schools’ efforts to reopen safely and address the impacts of COVID-19 on students, educators, and communities.
In addition to the actions the Biden Administration has taken to reopen schools, the President has proposed critical investments through his Build Back Better Agenda. The Build Back Better legislation will offer universal and free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds and, make education beyond high school more affordable—including offering more trainings and apprenticeships, by increasing the maximum Pell Grant, expanding access to DREAMers. It will also make historic investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and minority-serving institutions.