Supporting Fine Arts with ESSER and ARP Funds


As states continue navigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government allocated the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Program (ESSER) and American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to local education agencies. These funds will help local education agencies respond to emergent needs in schools and communities. The following information can serve as a guide for districts, community schools and stakeholders as they make local decisions regarding how to direct ESSER and ARP funds to programs and initiatives.

Impact on Education

The U.S Department of Education emphasized supporting student populations who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic increased challenges and barriers for students including inconsistent access to fine arts curriculum and supports.

Identifying the Needs and Building the Plan

Local education agencies are required to submit plans for the use of ESSER ARP funds to the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce . A first step in the planning process is to identify needs using the One Needs Assessment. Districts can then build the plan with a broad range of stakeholders as part of the ED STEPS process.

As part of the planning process, local education agencies are encouraged to analyze local data that can help identify strengths and existing gaps in student achievement. Additionally, the local education agency is encouraged to analyze the professional development needs of staff related to any instructional practices, materials or assessments.

General Funding Considerations and Practical Advice

The ESSER ARP federal funds are one-time investments that should be managed carefully. These funds generally should not be used to provide on-going services, as such service may have to be abruptly terminated when federal funds expire. Rather, the funds should be used for one-time or short-duration intensive supports that address impacts of the education disruption related to the COVID-19 pandemic or that otherwise build the capacity of the system to operate effectively or meaningfully for students. More information on using ESSER ARP funds may be found in the comprehensive ARP ESSER guidance created by the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce to assist local education agencies and other stakeholders in meeting the requirements of the federal acts authorizing these emergency federal resources and best practices for leveraging the funds.

In general, when determining strategies to spend the ESSER I, ESSER II and ARP ESSER funds, local education agencies should consider the following five questions:

  1. Will the proposed use of funds “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus”?
  2. Is the proposed use of funds allowable under the Coronavirus Aid, Resources and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act and/or the American Rescue Plan (ARP)? Click here for a broad list of ESSER ARP Allowable Uses.  
  3. Is the proposed use of funds reasonable and necessary?
  4. Does the proposed use of funds promote equity?
  5. Does the proposed use of funds support returning students to the classroom?

Strategies for Funding Fine Arts Supports

Below are examples of how local education agencies can direct their funds to address the needs of fine arts education.

Instruments, Supplies and Materials to Help Ensure Health and Safety

  • Supply musical instruments for each student individually to eliminate sharing;
  • Supply individual mouthpieces for each student;
  • Establish rental programs so that each student will have his or her own musical instrument;
  • Purchase props, scenery and staging for theater productions;
  • Update dance classroom furniture (such as cubbies, bins and shelves) to support distancing of student belongings and instructional materials;
  • Provide individual dance shoes and somatic materials (such as yoga mats, yoga blocks and TheraBands) for each student; and
  • Purchase individual make-up kits for each performer.

Personal Protective Equipment, Cleaning Supplies and Sanitation

  • Provide appropriate cleaning and sanitizing materials for musical instruments including:
    • Sonic instrument cleaners; and 
    • Mouthpiece cleaner. 
  • Ensure health and safety by:
Addressing recommendations of the National Federation of State High School Associations research studies; 
  • Ensuring each student has his or her own performer or choral mask; and
  • Providing individual instrument masks and bell covers.
  • Furnish supplies to sanitize and clean facilities such as:
    • Hand sanitizer; 
    • Disinfectant wipes and sprays; 
    • Dance floor cleaner appropriate for Marley, wood floor or other dance floor surfaces; and 
    • Microphone cleaner.

Facility Considerations

  • Ensure appropriate airflow upgrades in arts classrooms including ventilation improvements with a special focus on rooms without windows.
  • Provide supplies and materials to ensure instructional environments meet recommended standards.

Instructional Support

  • Supply tools and resources to support students during remote learning such as:
    • Trainings in available online resources specifically designed for arts educators to create virtual ensemble performances, productions and exhibitions;
    • Software programs to assist students with guided practice and self-assessment;
    • Software programs to assist students with arts learning; 
    • Software programs for video editing and music editing;
    • Music licensing for virtual and public productions; and
    • Online memberships to virtual libraries, streaming platforms and virtual performances and field trips.
  • Support low-income students by providing such resources as:
    • Instrument supplies like reeds, rosin and trumpet grease; 
    • Visual art kits;
    • Dance shoes for every student;
    • Choreography supply kits; and
    • Online private or group lessons with master teaching artists in partnership with local arts organizations. These could be scheduled during the school day or outside of school hours.
  • Embed social emotional learning into arts education curriculum and lesson plans.
  • Provide tutoring programs outside normal school hours to address specific student needs.
  • Provide activities to address the unique needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English language learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness and students involved in the foster care system. Service delivery modes should be tailored to meet the needs of each population.
  • Establish partnerships with local, regional and statewide arts, culture and historic organizations. Often, these groups have access to existing educational programming, or they are willing to work together to develop new programming to reach local students.
  • Ensure students have internet access by partnering with cellular and broadband companies to provide it where feasible.
  • Provide additional staffing to expand beginner programs designed to reach students who were unable to participate in arts instruction during the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Offer career and technical education services to prepare all students for postsecondary education and the workforce (such as virtual job shadowing, help with resume writing and building interviewing skills).
  • Offer students basic instruction on technology troubleshooting as well as instruction on maintenance of technology and equipment, connectivity, file-sharing and how to engage with remote tech support.

Summer Programs

  • Offer supplemental classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months.
  • Present summer enrichment activities including those relating to dance, music, theatre and visual arts.
  • Deliver services during extended school year programming, Saturday programs and summer enrichment programs. These could include band, music, theatre, dance and visual art “camps.”
  • Fund arts enrichment summer camps and pre-professional summer training programs.
Special Note: LEAs should expect significant oversight by state and federal auditors on the spending of their ESSER ARP federal funds. The LEA should have a written explanation of how the expenditure using these ESSER ARP funds was made to prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important that the LEA maintain documentation and be able to provide evidence that demonstrates compliance with the allowable uses of these federal resources.


  • Set aside time to develop and implement plans for the next school year or remainder of the current school year.
  • Be sure to include time for any relevant professional development, as well as time for staff members to plan specific programming and coordinate performances. 

Additional Resources

For questions or more information, please contact

Return to Back to School: Resources for Return

Last Modified: 10/30/2023 10:44:10 AM