3 relief bills, and plenty of learning priorities in Virginia
The York County School Division has followed a “crawl, walk, run” process of bringing students in for in-person learning this school year.
The school year began with the division’s most vulnerable students in classrooms and over the last several months, other batches of students have returned so that about 65% are now attending four days a week, Superintendent Victor Shandor says.
“One of the things I’m most proud of and which will catapult us into next year are the engagement and relationships our teacher and staff members have continued to develop with families,” Shandor says.
The division’s response to the pandemic and its plans to move forward and accelerate learning as students recover can be tracked by its use of the three federal stimulus packages.
More from DA: 3 priorities for stimulus spending to recover from COVID
For example, stimulus funding has allowed the district to launch evening tutoring in math and English. Students can also learn study skills in the free sessions, which are taught by division teachers, Chief Academic Officer Candi Skinner says.
The district has also developed individualized support plans for each student that identifies each learner’s academic and social-emotional needs, Skinner says
Here are some other initiatives that York County schools will support with stimulus funding:
CARES Act: Ed-tech expansion
Initially, the division had planned to use its $583,000 in funding from the first CARES Act to save teaching positions as enrollment—and potentially, state funding—dropped. However, when the state promised to cover the teaching positions, Shandor and his team shifted the funds toward technology purchases.
Along with $2 million in stimulus funding from York County, the district was able to implement a full 1-to-1 program, from kindergarten through 12th grade.
‘CARES Act II’: Summer enrichment
The division received $2.3 million from the second stimulus package and has set aside more than half for its robust and in-person summer school program, which administrators hope to make available to all students.
Administrators also plan to bring in additional arts and P.E. teachers, and hold classers at more of the division’s schools to make programs more convenient for families, Skinner says.
New this summer will be afternoon English, math and STEM enrichment camps driven by active learning such as theater and robotics. “We don’t want students sitting in front of computers”, Skinner says.
The division will use the rest of the funds from the second stimulus package to retain teachers. Early projections show the division may lose about 700 students, which would equate to 29 teaching positions, based on state funding formulas.
While some positions will be lost through attrition, Shandor and his team want to keep as many teachers as possible to staff summer school programs and provide students with additional academic and social-emotional support in the 200210-22 school year.
American Rescue Plan: Long-term support
The division plans to extend its expanded summer programs over the next three years with a portion of the $5.2 million in American Rescue Plan funding it will receive.
Shandor and his team will also use the funding for remediation and mental health support, as well as technology, for the 2021-22 school year, which will start one week earlier than normal, Shandor says.
That first week will, hopefully, help students used to full-time in-person instructions. It will also allow educators to conduct assessments to determine each student’s academic needs.