by Kate Evans
The Morgan County School Board voted to approve the school district’s U.S. Rescue Plan (ARP) funding plan at its August 3 meeting.
ARP funding totals $ 4,744,748 and includes funds for academic interventions, student programs, technology, mental health services, additional staff and equipment to offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Morgan County Schools Superintendent Kristen Tuttle and Special Education Director Nicole Hiles gave a PowerPoint presentation on the plan that includes academic needs, health services, mental health support and behavioral, personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitation supplies and facility needs.
The plan was available for public comment on the county school website and on the school websites and distributed through the school app. Hard copies were also available at the school board office.
The Morgan County Schools ARP Funding Plan budget will provide:
– $ 2,924,050 to fight against learning loss
– $ 300,000 for extracurricular programming
– $ 566,326 for summer programming
– $ 846,789 for discretionary financing
–107,582 $ for indirect costs.
The cost reduction of the learning loss programs will include additional staff, professional development, Edmentum and Schoology ($ 400,000 for years 2 and 3), online tutoring services, level II intervention services and III and a mobile learning lab.
Additional staff includes a school psychologist, social worker, credit recovery teacher, math interventionist, graduation coach, behavior support specialist, grant administrator / accountant, and four coaches / interventionists academic.
Lower graduation rate
The Morgan County schools’ graduation rate has declined, especially among hard-to-reach students and students with disabilities, school officials said in their presentation.
In the 2019-2020 school year, the graduation rate of the 4-year-old cohort was 88.71% and the graduation rate of students with disabilities was 74.19%.
Strategies to increase graduation rate include full-time coaching / credit recovery position, Capturing Kids’ Hearts program, academic coaches / interventionists, level 2/3 curriculum updated, professional development and online tutoring programs for students.
The socio-emotional needs of county students and families have also increased.
School officials have reported that there has been a significant increase in the number of middle and high school students reporting thoughts of self-harm and suicide since the pre-COVID 2019/2020 school year.
Students did not participate in extracurricular and community activities. Children also had issues outside of school that hampered their ability to fully engage in school.
Staff surveys reported moderate issues, including disrespect for staff from students and disruptive behavior from students. They called for more staff development to close the success gap.
Staff, student case data
COVID-19 school data shared by Tuttle showed 1,398 students have been quarantined with 108 positive cases of COVID-19.
Some 200 staff, including HeadStart, contractors and the Morgan County Partnership, have been quarantined, with 41 positive cases of COVID-19.
The student and staff cases arose almost entirely from an outside transmission, Tuttle said.
Professional and service personnel COVID-related absences for positive COVID illness or restrictions amounted to 884 days of absence.
Morgan County schools have seen 10 years of declining enrollment and have families with generational trauma and non-traditional family units,
Some 34% of students have technological connectivity barriers with limited or no Internet. Tuttle said they were excited to hire a tech coach.
School board member John Rowland said he thought it was a good plan with lots of discretionary money. Vice-chairman Pete Gordon said the plan was tight and concise.
Board chairman Aaron Close said there was the flexibility of the funds to try it out and see if it worked.
Eric Lyda, board member, was impressed with the plan and its original approach. He had heard public comments asking why do we need the special tax if schools are getting all this money?
The current special levy expires on July 1, 2022.
Superintendent Tuttle said there are a number of things that levy funding cannot be used for.
The goal of the US Rescue Plan (ARP) funding is to help schools cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. ARP money cannot be used for regular budget items.