ESSER Funding for School Playgrounds

esser funds
ESSER Funds could help you with your outdoor space! What are ESSER funds? What schools are eligible?

ESSER funds, or Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, are part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These funds aim to support K-12 schools in addressing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and improving the overall educational experience for students. The funds are distributed to states based on a formula that considers the state's Title I, Part A funding level. Subsequently, 90% of the ESSER funds allocated to a state must be distributed to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) based on each LEA's share of Title I, Part A funds.

Schools eligible for ESSER funds include those serving kindergarten through 12th grade. The funds prioritize addressing the needs of students with disabilities, at-risk populations, language needs, and other schools facing challenges.

ESSER funds can be used for various purposes falling within five categories:

  • Physical health and safety: This category covers initiatives and investments to ensure a safe and healthy environment for students, staff, and visitors.
  • Academic, social, and emotional needs: Funds can be utilized to address academic, social, and emotional needs of students, which may include educational technology, tutoring programs, and mental health services.
  • Mental health support: Schools can use ESSER funds to enhance mental health services and support for students and staff.
  • Operational needs: This category includes funding for addressing logistical and operational challenges posed by the pandemic, such as upgrading facilities or implementing safety measures.
  • Undetermined: This category allows for flexibility in using funds for needs that may not fit specifically into the other categories but are deemed essential for the overall well-being of the school community.

Northwest Playground offers products and services that align with ESSER fund categories, including playgrounds, surfacing, outdoor classrooms, shade structures, fitness equipment, and site furnishings. They can assist schools in creating plans to utilize ESSER funds effectively.


For schools considering purchases with Northwest Playground, there are deadlines associated with the American Rescue Plan (ARP) ESSER funds:

  • Obligate funds before the Tydings deadline: By September 30, 2024.
  • Liquidate funds and install playground equipment before January 28, 2025.
  • If approved for a liquidation extension, the deadline is extended by 14 months until the end of March 2026.