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ESSER Rural Program Development Grant


The application window for the ESSER Rural Program Development Grant is now closed.

Overview of the ESSER Rural Program Development Grant

Significant interruptions to in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to potentially devastating and long-lasting negative impacts on student achievement, impacting every part of Colorado society. These negative impacts on student achievement are not equal; students furthest from privilege are at risk of the most opportunity loss. Research suggests that while all students may fall behind as much as seven months because of interruptions to in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students who are identified as most in need may fall behind as much as ten months, exacerbating already entrenched inequities. Responding to learning opportunity loss and the widening of opportunity gaps could be the greatest challenge our state faces over the next few years, and the state has an urgent and immediate need to provide additional support to ensure students are well prepared for the future.

A critical component of ensuring the academic success of Colorado’s students is strengthening students’ engagement in their learning. At the same time, the pandemic has resulted in students feeling disengaged and disconnected from their schools and communities. A wide variety of opportunities and programs are available for supporting districts across the state of Colorado in identifying and/or building programs to address this need. However, for many rural Colorado districts, limited staffing capacity minimizes their ability to identify and/or build such programs leaving the opportunities unleveraged.

As such, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) is creating a grant program that will support rural districts in developing programs that strengthen student engagement. Through this ESSER Rural Program Development Grant, rural districts submitting the following brief application will receive funding to support the development of a wide range of programs to support re-engaging and strengthening student engagement–particularly for those students most impacted by the pandemic. This program will be funded under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) state reserve.

ESSER Rural Program Development Grant

This program exists to provide grants to rural districts to plan and develop programs designed to expand learning opportunities so as to strengthen student engagement in learning–both during the traditional school and beyond. A rural district (as defined in "Eligible Applicants and Priority Criteria") may apply for a grant.

Eligible Applicants and Priority Criteria:

Only districts identified as rural by CDE or a Colorado BOCES are eligible to submit an application. A BOCES is an eligible applicant so long as only students enrolled in rural or small rural districts are served by these funds.

Allowable Use of Funds:

Funds must be expended in a way that supports the planning and development of programs designed to strengthen student engagement–particularly for those most impacted by the pandemic. Please see "Purpose and Program Activities" for allowable program categories. All expenses must align with the allowable uses as defined through ARP ESSER III and all expenditures must be allocable, allowable, and reasonable as defined in 2 CFR 200. These funds are specific to this program, the ESSER Rural Program Development Grant, and uses of funds for any other purpose are not allowed.

Allowable expenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Salary and benefits for staff dedicated to this purpose;
  • Contracts for services rendered in support of program development; and
  • Supplies necessary for the development of the programs.

If you have any questions regarding allowable expenses, please reach out to CONTACT for confirmation.

Review Process and Timeline:

Applications will be reviewed by CDE staff on a rolling basis to ensure they contain all required components. Applicants will be notified within two weeks of submission as to the status of their award.

Submission Process and Deadline:

Applications must be completed (including all elements outlined below) and submitted through the online application form on the CDE Website by Friday, October 7, 2022, at 11:59pm. The Excel Budget Workbook and Program Assurances Form must also be uploaded to the Smartsheet form at the time of submission.

Application resources and required documents to include in the submission are available on CDE’s Program webpage. Incomplete or late applications will not be considered. Applicants should receive an automated confirmation email from the online system upon submission. If you do not, please email

Application Assistance

Program Questions:
Contact Scott D. Jones
Chief Strategic Recovery Officer
Or call 720-519-1924

Fiscal-Related Questions:

Contact Allisha Cody
Grants Fiscal Analyst
Or call 303-919-2413

Application Process Questions:
Contact Kim Burnham
Or call 720-607-1495