Why 2 districts intend to hire teachers with stimulus funds
Many district leaders intend to use COVID stimulus money to add teachers despite cautions from some policymakers who say new hires won’t be sustainable after the funding expires.
Camden City Schools Superintendent Katrina McCombs says she wants to add a second certified teacher in all elementary school classrooms to help curb the learning loss that has occurred during COVID.
The district, which was taken over by the state of New Jersey in 2013, has been fully online since shutting down in March 2020. Students will return to their classrooms for the first time when hybrid learning beings on April 12.
“Prior to the pandemic, our district was gaining positive momentum,” McCombs says. “To protect those gains, as well as to accelerate, using a co-teaching model is at the top of my list.”
Pre-COVID, Camden’s graduation rate had risen 20 percentage points since state intervention while dropouts had declined significantly. Students had also made steady gains in math and English language arts proficiency, McCombs says.
Co-teaching in the early grades will allow much more small group and one-on-one instruction. It will also allow teaching teams to personalize learning for each student, McCombs says.
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“Even if we’re able to implement the model for two years, we feel it would be more important to invest in the people who are needed to help close these gaps,” she says.
Her priority is adding teachers in kindergarten through second grade, though she hopes to implement co-teaching through fifth grade. And she intends to place a guidance counselor, reading specialist and family liaison in every school building, McCombs says.
“We know many students were already experiencing trauma prior to the pandemic and will need extra support,” she says. “We know that academics go hand-in-hand with social-emotional learning.”
Stimulus funding will also allow the district to provide more tutoring for students in sixth- through 12th-grade, and offer teachers stipends to staff expanded summer school programs.
“We know our young people, our families and our staff members are resilient,” McCombs says. “Will we bounce back.”
‘Jobs are going to be there’
Leaders in Bloomington Public Schools District 87 in Illinois intend to use ESSER II stimulus funding to hire more academic interventionists and social workers, says Diane Wolf, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
The investment will benefit students, even if the funds expire within the next three years, Wolf says.
Also, after the COVID stimulus runs out, districts across the country will continue to experience teaching shortages that could be filled by personnel hired in the coming months.
“The jobs are still going to be there in a couple of years—people are not flooding into the teaching profession,” Wolf says.