Learning First

Alisal Union School District (which includes Virginia Rocca Barton Elementary, pictured) plans to hire about 200 teachers, since summer school is not part of regular teachers’ contracts.

As the federal government deploys $123 billion via the American Rescue Plan to safely reopen schools, California is readying to receive its share – $15 billion – to get K-12 students back in the classrooms.

This is the third round of Covid-19 relief funds schools will receive in less than a year, following $1.5 billion from the 2020 CARES Act and $6.5 billion from the $900 billion Covid relief fund.

Previous allocations were mainly used to transition from in-person to virtual learning, including providing computers and wireless hotspots for students; upgrading ventilation systems in schools; purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies; and hiring new staff. Twenty percent of the funds must be used on learning loss, since students are under-performing on virtual learning, according to assessments, and identifying and providing resources for homeless children.

PK Diffenbaugh, superintendent of Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, says “learning loss” isn’t the best term to define the current academic climate because it has negative connotations and it doesn’t focus on the student as a whole. “We prefer to say unfinished learning,” he says.

ARP money will also fund more PPE, mental health support and hiring additional staff.

According to EdSource, Monterey County districts are set to receive the following: Salinas Union High School District (the largest in the county), $27.5 million; Alisal Union, $16.9 million; Salinas City Elementary, $17.2 million; MPUSD, $15 million; and Greenfield Union Elementary, $8 million.

The Monterey County Office of Education will receive $2.1 million. Deneen Guss, county superintendent of schools, says they plan to use part of the money for in-person learning and help for students who are struggling.

MPUSD will focus on extending the school year and school days, and providing targeted intervention and tutoring for students who need it. Since 18 percent of the students in the district are defined as homeless, they want to provide additional resources, such as expanding student resource centers, now available only in high schools, to middle and elementary schools.

SUHSD will focus on English learners, low-income, foster care and homeless students. Enrichment classes with learning support will start on April 19 for 8th and 12th graders. Superintendent Dan Burns says they are preparing to return all students to in-person learning in August.

AUSD will expand summer school for the next couple of years since its data show students aren’t learning at the same speed virtually as they were in-person, Superintendent Jim Koenig says.

Private schools that enroll a high percentage of low-income students and were impacted by the pandemic can apply for relief funding through the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools Program. Other requirements include: being a nonprofit; operating before the national emergency was declared; and not receiving a loan in the Paycheck Protection Program.

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