Weekly NewsBrief 9/27/21/10/3/21
3 goals leaders set for ESSER funds to keep schools open in 3rd COVID year – By Charles Hendrix, District Administrator
Legislators and stakeholders discussed how to use policies implemented during the pandemic to reopen schools and ensure classrooms remain open and address students’ needs during a House Education and Labor Committee’s Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee hearing on Sept. 29, “Back to School: Highlighting Best Practices for Safely Reopening Schools.”
It is important “to learn from experts about the obstacles schools face to reopening safely, how schools can keep students in the classroom safely, and how states and districts can leverage federal funds to build a more equitable education system for the future,” said Subcommittee Chairman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, D-Northern Marianas Islands.
Panelists discussed the use of ARP ESSER funds to reopen schools and how they will continue to be used to address unfinished learning and keep schools open, as well as needed next steps to improve outcomes for students. They also discussed the use of masks and other mitigation measures to keep schools open.
ARP ESSER Funds “enabled the Clark County Public Schools to prioritize needs, address obstacles, reopen safely, and support students’ social and emotional learning and academic needs,” said Clark County (Nev.) Superintendent Jesus F. Jara. He said the district is using 80% of its ARP ESSER allocation to address the impact of lost instructional time—far beyond the 20% required by law— and said he hoped that passage of the Build Back Better Act would provide funding to address the district’s infrastructure needs.
Masks are optional again in this NC school district. Students have sued to change that – By Michael Gordon, The Charlotte Observer
A North Carolina judge will rule Thursday on whether to temporarily block the return of a mask-optional plan for the Lincoln County schools after a group of students and their parents sued to stop it.
In all, 13 students and their families filed the complaint this week against the Lincoln County Board of Education’s 4-3 decision on Sept. 14 to drop its mask mandate and end most student quarantines.
The complaint alleges in part that the changes violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional guarantee to a safe education. The mask-optional policy went into effect Wednesday.
The divided school board made the change to stop requiring masks in the classroom even as a resurgent COVID-19 continues to batter the largely rural county east of Charlotte. Lincoln County’s 14.9% rate of positive COVID tests far exceeds the state average.
According to the Lincoln County Health Department, 36 percent of the county’s new COVID cases over the past two weeks have struck children 17 and younger
Pa. plan to keep kids in school: Hiring bus drivers, more COVID-19 testing – By Mick Stinelli, Pittsburg Post Gazette
Plans to keep kids in Pennsylvania schools include hiring more bus drivers, expanding testing for students and preparing for vaccination clinics for younger children, state officials said Thursday, as effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to complicate in-person education.
PennDOT is sending mail to approximately 375,000 Pennsylvanians with a commercial driver’s license to inform them of the need for school bus drivers, along with information on how to get the appropriate endorsement to transport students, said state Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Kurt Myers.
The school bus driver shortage has affected other states across the country. Pennsylvania currently has “a little over 42,000 school bus drivers,” Mr. Meyers said, the lowest number in the past five years. “That is over 4% decrease since 2014 when we had over 44,000 drivers.”
The driver issue is just one of the challenges hitting schools this fall as students and teachers enter a second full year of pandemic learning amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Stress and short tempers: Schools struggle with behavior as students return – By Kalyn Belsha, Chalkbeat
Alyssa Rodriguez expected a rocky readjustment this school year. The Chicago social worker figured she’d see more students who felt anxious, frustrated by their schoolwork, or disoriented by unfamiliar routines.
A month into school, she says she underestimated the challenge ahead. Student behavior referrals are up, as middle schoolers hurt each others’ feelings with comments they’d usually only be bold enough to say online. She and other social workers have seen more verbal and physical fights, and worried parents are calling with concerns about their child’s shorter-than-usual temper.
“It’s definitely a lot more than I think any of us were mentally prepared for, even though we tried to prepare for it,” Rodriguez said.
Schools across the country say they’re seeing an uptick in disruptive behaviors. Some are obvious and visible, like students trashing bathrooms, fighting over social media posts, or running out of classrooms. Others are quieter calls for help, like students putting their head down and refusing to talk.
“This is a prolonged adjustment period,” said Dr. Tali Raviv, the associate director of the Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. As children return to school, “There’s much more interaction, there’s much less downtime to recharge, there’s much less flexibility.”
The behavior issues are a reflection of the stress the pandemic placed on children, experts say, upending their education, schedules, and social lives. For students dealing with grief, mental health issues, or the layered effects of poverty and racism, big transitions can be even more challenging.