Readfield-area school district targets learning gaps with COVID-19 relief funds

READFIELD – The COVID-19 pandemic has created learning gaps for most students in Regional School Unit 38, and the district plans to use coronavirus relief funds to help fill them.

RSU 38 principals briefed the district board on Wednesday evening on how students are adjusting when they return to school full time. Directors said the learning gaps are obvious.

“The lack of learning is real,” said Jeff Boston, principal of Readfield Elementary School. “Whether they are with us, home schooled or in another institution, the level of education that everyone is used to is not there, and there are significant gaps.

The district is to receive $ 1.49 million from the Federal Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund, or ESSER. Of this, $ 299,397 – or 20% – is needed to fund part of the RSU 38 budget to fill the learning gap.

On Wednesday evening, Superintendent Jay Charette and the RSU 38 Board of Directors identified areas where funds could be spent, including summer programs or after-school activities targeting specific academic needs.

Leading health organizations, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, anticipated learning gaps related to the pandemic, which released a study in March that found the transition to school could lead to gaps, especially in social and emotional needs due to the stress of being back in class.

Students who attended school part-time may have had a different experience last year than those who attended school full-time. According to officials, returning to sitting in a classroom all day instead of distance learning at home can be difficult.

Manchester Primary School principal Abbie Hartford said she had noticed similar trends to those described by Boston, especially among students who attended school two days a week instead of four or five .

“Learning where the students are will take a lot of conversation, a lot of conversation,” Hartford said. “I know it won’t be a one day thing.”

After hearing from school administrators, the board agreed to set aside an additional $ 80,000 from ESSER funding to target areas the district has yet to identify.

District officials said they hope the NWEA’s statewide testing will provide administrators with information to find common drivers of learning gaps, as students will likely be in fields of learning. different learning.

NWEA is a research-based, non-profit organization that creates academic assessments for students from junior kindergarten to high school.

“When we have more assessment data, the NWEA in October, then we can proceed with interventions,” Hartford said.

The ESSER money must be spent over the next three years and the request must be filed by the end of the month so that the district can collect the test results. School officials could not tell if there were gaps in a certain subject or in general learning.

To target learning gaps, the district is budgeting $ 178,000 for the summer, $ 150,000 for after-school programs to be spent over three years, and $ 45,000 for phonics programs and staff. literacy to target school needs.

The additional $ 80,000 that the board has set aside to target academic needs will be taken from $ 245,000 to cover long-term replacement expenses.

District officials chose to withdraw money from long-term replacement funding because of the difficulties in finding people for these jobs. Charette said it would not make sense to make a long-term investment in this area, but rather to use $ 40,000 for education technician or education technology positions and $ 60,000 for a nurse to help administer COVID-19 and pool testing.

The district also plans to set aside $ 60,000 for an elementary school guidance counselor.

Mount Vernon and Wayne Elementary Schools now share a principal, but the district plans to allocate $ 330,000 over three years to hire a principal for Wayne, hoping the hiring will improve the structure of the school.

Charette said Wayne Elementary School has five new staff members and one who has been in school for six months. The new director would serve for at least two years to see if the position makes a difference, with future discussion of what impact a third year might have.

“If we don’t pay attention to the little school, we’re going to feel it moving forward,” Charette said. “It will reverberate through middle school and then into high school and if we can fix it now and get it under control, we can help bring it back to the original structure.”

RSU 38 officials said they plan to spend $ 415,000 on laptops. Due to increased enrollment, the district needs more laptops for students and staff.

The initial amount budgeted to pay for the space setup was $ 280,000, but Charette reduced it to $ 165,000 because she was told the first estimate was high.

The money will be used to cover the cost of reconfiguring the Readfield Elementary School classrooms, the high school music space, the professional development center and the high school multimedia center to add a writing lab. The goal is to use the space to meet the distancing requirements.

The district also set aside $ 45,000 for Readfield Elementary School furniture and to help with lunch, and $ 3,500 for personal protective equipment for group members, including bells and masks with holes that allow students to play their musical instruments.

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