CCS board approves summer learning plan to combat COVID-learning challenges

BY HANNAH MCCLELLAN, News + Record Staff
Posted 4/21/21

PITTSBORO — The Chatham County Schools Board of Education approved a new state-mandated summer learning plan, meant to help students recover from COVID-19 learning loss, as presented by the …

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CCS board approves summer learning plan to combat COVID-learning challenges

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PITTSBORO — The Chatham County Schools Board of Education approved a new state-mandated summer learning plan, meant to help students recover from COVID-19 learning loss, as presented by the district at its Monday night meeting.

As the Chatham BOE meeting took place, the state board of education adopted guidance including more specifics for how N.C. districts will run the program. The motion, approved 4-0 by board members, also included a provision for CCS administration to make adjustments to the plan to meet any necessary changes to the program legislated by House Bill 82, which was unanimously approved by the General Assembly April 1. Board member Jane Allen Wilson was not present at the meeting.

“We bring a similar plan to you every summer of this nature,” Amanda Hartness, CCS assistant superintendent of Academic Services & Instructional Support, told the board Monday. “We’ve always had a tradition of offering summer opportunities for our students, but this year, it comes with many more layers of complexity and requirements.”

That law requires school districts to offer students at least 150 hours or 30 days of summer in-person instruction, along with a minimum of one enrichment activity during each instructional day. While the program is geared toward at-risk students, attendance is voluntary and open to any student if there is space for them.

Other requirements include:

• Meal services for every instructional day

• Physical activity during the instructional day

• Reading, math and science instruction for grades K-8, with science required for grades 3-8

• Read to Achieve Camps

• Instruction for End of Course subjects at the high school level

• Credit Recovery opportunities for high school

• Transportation services

• Social emotional supports

• Small group instruction

The BOE was required to approve the plan 30 days prior to the last day of the school year, which is June 9. The district’s presentation indicated plans to offer nine different learning opportunities for students and families, including K-8 academic support, career and technical academics, summer enrichment community opportunities and remote learning programs with 24-hour support hotline. For high school students, the plan includes credit recovery and dual enrollment opportunities, along with college ready programming. The plan also includes credit recovery for Occupational Course of Study EC students and an extended school year for extended content standard EC students.

The law doesn’t provide additional funding for new summer learning requirements, but state legislators said local districts could fund the program with existing funds and COVID-related grants and money. On Monday, the state board also approved some funding for a test that will be given to K-8 students who participate in the program.

“We anticipate the summer programs will cost approximately $1.5 million,” the district’s online agenda outline says. “There are adequate federal and state funding sources to support these requirements.”

CCS will use the following funds, the district said: remaining CARES PRC 163 funds, Read to Achieve state and local funds, funding sources for EC student supports and ESSR II funds, which are not available until May at the earliest.

Hartness emphasized the district’s partnership with community organizations, and its plan to publish K-12 enrichment opportunities throughout the summer.

“We will be doing a big public relations push on these opportunities for families and will have a video as well as links to these various community partners,” she said. “This has been a really exciting addition to our summer offerings and we hope that our families will be excited about this opportunity.”

Other meeting business

The board also approved the 2021-2022 School Nutrition Budget, which includes a 2.47% increase in expenditures, or $114,500, compared to the average of the prior three fiscal years. The nutrition department served more than 1 million students to date this school year, the dept. said.

Still, staff acknowledged many unknowns remain in planning for the next school year, including whether or not waivers for universal meals will be extended. On Tuesday evening, the USDA announced it would extend those free lunches for all students through 2021-22 school year.

“It’s never been more challenging than now  to put together a budget during a pandemic, said Tony Messer, CCS chief finance officer, during Monday’s presentation.

The board also approved a request from Siler City Futbol Club, an affordable travel soccer league based in Siler City, to create a Memorandum of Agreement with the BOE to use the soccer field located on the campus of Chatham Middle School. The specifics of that MOU remained to be worked out.

In the final action item of the meeting, the board also approved the proposed 2021-2022 Capital Outlay budget — $2,300,000, funded by Chatham County. Capital Outlay projects were submitted by the individual schools and filtered by the Director of Maintenance and Construction, CCS Technology Department, and Assistant Superintendent for Operations, the district said. The budget included various replacement and repair, technology and vehicle projects. It also included a $99,852 line item for furniture and equipment replacements as needed at all the district’s schools.

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.

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