SMSD News: Meeting the needs of students in our pandemic response

Globally, nationally, and locally — we are all faced with rising to the challenge of pandemic response and recovery.  With hope on the horizon and our SMSD strength, educators have

Globally, nationally, and locally — we are all faced with rising to the challenge of pandemic response and recovery.

 With hope on the horizon and our SMSD strength, educators have outlined a plan rooted in our mission to ensure each child achieves their personal best. Our Strategic Plan, which informs this response, focuses on every student having a personalized learning plan that prepares them to be college and career ready, with the interpersonal skills they need for life success. Through it all, equity in outcomes is a focus.

 During the April 12 Board of Education workshop, district leaders presented a review of academic and social emotional data, and outlined how resources will be allocated to address student needs moving forward.

 Superintendent Dr. Mike Fulton emphasized that federal funding, through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) will be foundational to the district’s ability to meet student needs. These funds can be allocated for preventing, preparing for, and responding to COVID-19, addressing learning loss, preparing schools for reopening, and testing, repairing and upgrading systems to improve air quality in school buildings. 

 “It is not money to be supplanted with existing money or something to be played with. It is critical to making a difference for all of our children,” Fulton said. “We have an opportunity to make a big difference in the life of every child we serve.”

 Academic and Social Emotional Response

 The response plan was developed by a multidisciplinary team of educators, representing every grade level from Pre-k through high school. They reviewed data and identified necessary interventions, with a focus on supporting academic and social emotional needs. 

You can view the full presentation of data shared with the Board of Education on April 12 here.

You can watch the full presentation here, starting at the 38 minute mark.

 During the data presentation, Dr. Dan Gruman, director of assessment and research, highlighted data showing that students with chronic absenteeism are 11 times more likely to have at least one grade of “F” compared to students who are not chronically absent. This is but one example of the challenges that the Response Plan is designed to address.

 ESSER II Funds Allocations

 The recommendations in the plan are designed to use the available temporary funding to create long-term sustainability, address the objectives set forth in the Strategic Plan, and meet state requirements.

 Teams worked tirelessly to truly align every response recommendation to directly address an academic or social emotional objective for students, according to deputy superintendent Dr. Michelle Hubbard. For example, supporting educators in building relationships and connecting with students often helps address the issue of chronic absenteeism.  

 Teams of educators have recommended the following ESSER II fund allocations, in the amount of $10,564,000, to address student needs.

  • 7 elementary social workers*
  • 4 high school counselors*
  • Additional teachers to reduce elementary class size to 22/25 (18) **
  • 54 substitutes to support student learning, professional learning, and COVID-19 response for the 2021-2022 school year
  • 10 secondary math teachers
  • CARES Teams at each level
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • 6.5 Elementary Instructional Coaches
  • Technology Needs

*These positions will need to be reduced or absorbed into the general fund in 2023-24

** Elementary class sizes would return to 24/27 in the 2023-24 school year.

The full allocation chart can be viewed here.

 Both Dr. Fulton and Dr. Hubbard emphasized that, since these are temporary funds, several of the positions allocated would need to be absorbed or reduced once the funds run out, and elementary class sizes would need to expand again in 2023-2024.

 Even with those future challenges in mind, they emphasized this funding is critical to helping students get back to where they were prior to the pandemic.