CLAREMONT — The Claremont School District hopes to launch a new program next year to address learning gaps suffered as a result of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, though school board members say they still have questions. lingering questions about the logistics of the proposal.
On Wednesday, Claremont school administrators proposed the creation of two learning recovery programs next year, one at Claremont Middle School and the other at Stevens High School, to address student loss. student learning that resulted from the shift to online learning between 2020 and 2022.
The proposal includes up to $570,000 in total salaries for staff at these centers. Approximately $240,000 would be funded within the approved 2022-23 operating budget. Up to $330,000 would be funded through the district’s one-time Federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.
Ideally, each school would have three academic centers to serve students at different grade levels, with each center having a “dean of students”, a teacher with a leadership role, and a teacher’s aide. Each center would be assigned a school counselor and a special education teacher.
Claremont, like districts across the country, has seen an alarming percentage of students who have fallen dangerously academically and socioemotionally because of the pandemic, Claremont administrators noted.
Without effective intervention to help these students get back on track academically, they risk falling further behind or dropping out altogether, noted Claremont Middle School principal Frank Romeo.
“A [current] The eighth grader hasn’t had a full year of school since he was in sixth grade,” Romeo said. “So when you compare a sixth-grader to an eighth-grader, you can see what a difference there is and why they have socio-emotional and academic difficulties.”
These centers, which Romeo encountered while teaching in Baltimore, Maryland, function as an academic “triage,” in which the team identifies each student’s needs and develops a plan to help that student recover. on rails.
“It may mean that [a student] needs more individual time, more attention, or smaller environments,” Romeo said. “So these university centers will really help students in need, and I think we’ll catch those students before we lose them.”
These centers are designed to be short-term stations to help students build the tools needed to succeed in their classrooms, according to Romeo, though some students may need to stay longer than others.
Another goal, Superintendent Michael Tempesta said, is to reduce the current pressure on teachers in the classroom, adding extra staff to reduce student volume and help students who are having academic or behavioral difficulties.
Board members, while receptive to the aim of the initiative, said they still had many reservations about the proposal, particularly about fiscal sustainability.
Next school year, the district is expected to receive more than $6.4 million in ESSER funds to apply to address the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on public schools. According to Tempesta, the “major part” of that money, about $3.5 million, will go towards staffing and salary incentives, which includes hiring some helpers for academic centers.
Board Vice Chair Heather Whitney expressed concern about the use of one-time funds to fund new programs, which would require new sources of funding two years from now when that funding is spent.
“Before we even implement this, we need to have a plan for it to be sustainable,” Whitney said. “There will be families and students who will have an emotional attachment to the program, who expect him to be there.”
Tempesta said he believes the district will have future funds to allocate through attrition, in which existing staff positions are eliminated once the active employee retires.
Other staff or funds could be freed up through the district’s rescheduling plan, which aims to reconfigure the class schedule at Stevens and Claremont Middle School, Tempesta added.
School administrators also noted that these academic centers could also be redesigned in the future if student needs diminish, which officials said was in fact the goal.
But board members said they still wanted to see more planning on paper, rather than relying on assumptions that the money would become available.
“I don’t think we should move forward on hope alone,” said board member Whitney Skillen. “That’s not to say we shouldn’t be optimistic that things will go our way, but I’ve heard a lot of speculation. [Which] it’s good, [but] I’d like to see some documentation with all the thinking behind it all.
Board member Steven Horsky said he would also like to see benchmarks to measure the effectiveness of the program, such as targeting a percentage of students able to return to grade level expectations.
“I’m just curious what the modeling showed for the return on that investment,” Horsky said.
Other school officials have reiterated that this academic center, like the ESSER funding that underpins it, is specifically aimed at providing immediate relief as opposed to permanence.
“They shouldn’t be in trouble again in two years if it works as planned,” said board member Joshua Lambert. “And having so many additional intervention opportunities is going to help us a lot.”
“Federal ESSER funding is specifically for learning loss,” said Deputy Superintendent Mary Ellen Janeiro. “So it’s not supposed to be sustainable. It’s just this beautiful gift of money to say how to close these [learning] shortcomings.