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Education Recovery: School Construction

School Construction with Federal Funds Guidance
Application for Construction with Federal Funds

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds from the CARES, CCRSA, and American Rescue Plan Act all provide federal funding for school construction and maintenance. In addition, through Act 9, the General Assembly extended the Indoor Air Quality Grant through Efficiency Vermont established in the fall of 2020, by appropriating an additional $15 million through the American Rescue Plan State Fiscal Relief Fund, which lasts through December 2024. Finally, there is potential additional federal support for school infrastructure improvements. Together, these federal funds represent a significant opportunity for schools to address health and safety in school facilities, but also create a need for a formalized process of technical assistance, review, and support to ensure that LEAs meet the federal requirements surrounding construction projects.

LEAs using federal funds for school construction can use one or more funding sources, as well as local resources on a single project. The project must be allowable under all the funds used, and the time frame is important, as each of the ESSER funds and other funding sources have a different timeline for use. To be an allowable use of ESSER funds, projects must include costs related to inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, replacement, or upgrade to either improve indoor air quality or comply with social distancing, hygiene, or other health guidelines.

All construction projects that use federal funding sources must go through an approval process with the Agency, as required by Federal law. The agency has created this webpage, an application review process, and technical assistance resources to assist LEAs in completing construction projects that use federal funding sources.

Questions regarding school construction using federal funds should be directed to the AOE's Federal Construction team at

School Construction with Federal Funds Training

Application Review

LEAs that intend to use Federal funds including: ESSER I, ESSER II and ARP-ESSER (ESSER III) funds for construction or minor remodeling must also comply with all applicable state and Federal requirements. Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200.439(b)(3) requires LEAs to receive prior approval from the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) for construction projects and minor remodeling projects.

The AOE requires LEAs to submit a two-part application consisting of Concept Approval and Project Approval in the Grants Management System. Failure to obtain prior written approval (Project Approval stage) before breaking ground on the proposed project may make the costs associated with the project unallowable to the Federal grant.

Please note: the AOE strongly urges LEAs to submit the required materials and information in the Project Approval stage 30 days before the project is set to begin (break ground).

Below are the general steps for receiving approval for a project utilizing federal funding. More detailed information and guidance is available in the Construction with Federal Funds Guidance.

  1. Project Identification
  2. Determine ownership of the property
  3. Determine the source(s) of funding for the project
  4. Determine the timeline (start and end date) for the project
  5. Complete the requirements for Concept Approval in the GMS Application for Construction with Federal Funds (Project Narrative and Concept Approval Assurance Tabs) and submit
  6. Apply for federal funds in grant application (Please note: all projects included in ARP ESSER must meet the Interim Final Rule requirements for meaningful consultation)
  7. Complete plan development and obtain all required permits
  8. Complete Project Approval requirements in the GMS Application for Construction with Federal Funds and submit as an amendment

Guidance and Application for Construction with Federal Funds

Definitions and Key Federal Regulations

Construction: “(A) the preparation of drawings and specifications for school facilities; (B) erecting, building, acquiring, altering, remodeling, repairing, or extending school facilities; (C) inspecting and supervising the construction of school facilities; and (D) debt servicing for such activities.” 34 CFR §222.176(a)

Minor remodeling: Minor alterations in a previously completed building, for purposes associated with COVID-19. The term also includes the extension of utility lines, such as water and electricity, from points beyond the confines of the space in which the minor remodeling is undertaken but within the confines of the previously completed building.

Maintenance: “Costs incurred for utilities, insurance, security, necessary maintenance, janitorial services, repair, or upkeep of buildings and equipment (including Federal property unless otherwise provided for) which neither add to the permanent value of the property nor appreciably prolong its intended life, but keep it in an efficient operating condition, are allowable...” 2 CFR § 200.452

Please note: Projects that fall under the Uniform Guidance definition of maintenance (2 CFR 200.452) do not need to be submitted through the Application for Construction with Federal Funds in GMS. Instead, maintenance projects should be included as an investment in the federal grant application. However, LEAs should bear in mind that though the project may not be considered construction it may involve the purchase of equipment and/or other capital expenditures that may require prior written approval (see 2 CFR 200.439).

Uniform Guidance

Please note: The following is not an exhaustive list. Please refer to the Construction with Federal Funds Guidance for a comprehensive list of all federal regulations that LEAs must bear in mind while working on projects that utilize federal funds.

Links to Resources

Historic Preservation Determination - Due to the amount of anticipated number of projects that will be funded with ESSER funds statewide the AOE will be assisting Historic Preservation with a preliminary determination on review eligibility for the project. 

Fire Safety Interactive Map

Agency of Natural Resources on-line Permit Navigator

Natural Resources Board

Department of Environmental Conservation, Find a Permit Specialist

Department of Environmental Conservation, Information on PCBs

School Ventilation: A Vital Tool to Help Reduce COVID-19 Spread - Johns Hopkins

Sole Source Waiver Webform- Any noncompetitive procurement action with Federal Funds must be submitted and approved by Agency of Education using this form.

Davis Bacon Resources

Labor Compliance Manual For Contractors  (Agency of Transportation)

Job Site Posters Questions and Answers (Agency of Transportation)

Wage Determinations Quick Start Guide (Agency of Education)

Davis Bacon Overview 4.26.23 (US Department of Labor & USED)

Please Note: the U.S. Department of Labor has issued a new final rule for Davis-Bacon requirements that goes into effect October 23, 2023. The materials below do not reflect those updates which are captured in this comparison chart from the Department of Labor. Recipients of federal funds are strongly encouraged to work with legal counsel to ensure that all contracts executed after October 23, 2023 meet the updated requirements for Davis Bacon.

School Construction Office Hours Notes Archive

Office Hours Notes 3.22.23

Office Hours Notes 4.5.23

Office Hours Notes 4.19.23

Office Hours Notes 5.3.23