Director of Special Projects for Jackson City Schools (JCS), Dr. Debby Crabtree, recently provided members of the Board of Education with an overview of the district’s Learning Recovery & Extended Learning Plan, which Gov. Mike DeWine said in February that all of the state’s school districts needed to have in place. 

During the Tuesday, April 13 meeting, Superintendent Phil Howard said another round of stimulus funds, which are directly tied to these plans, were coming to Jackson. In all, he said the district was poised to receive close to $3 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II funds. 

“The purpose of that money is to make up for lost learning that students have had in the past year,” Howard explained. “We did a needs assessment with all of our staff, pulled our administrative team together and used all of that [data] from the needs assessment to develop our plan.”

He then gave thanks to and welcomed Dr. Crabtree, who put the district’s plan together. 

“As Mr. Howard said, this was required by the governor and the State Department of Education,” Dr. Crabtree explained. “As we started talking about this, we realized that we needed to ask the people in the buildings what they felt was needed. Our studentswe are aware of how many of them are not fully engaging with us on a daily basis and we also know that there is lost learning – whether it happened in March, April and May of last year or during this school year. That’s the purpose of this ESSER II money.”

Much of the money the district received via ESSER I funds, Dr. Crabtree explained, is what made it possible for teachers to be face-to-face with students this school year.

The plan itself, she continued, has two halves, with the first focused on instruction and the other on the social and emotional needs of students, and what children “need to be successful.”

“The first section is asking how we’re identifying these students and how we are identifying their needs,” Dr. Crabtree stated. “How much are we going to spend out of the ESSER II money for this? We’ve been identifying those needs since day-one.” She specified day-one as being on or about March 13, 2020. 

Next, she said the plan moves into the district’s proposed approaches to filling these gaps with regard to student needs. Dr. Crabtree explained that, in February, all teachers and administrative staff members were given one week to respond to an online survey. She says she was impressed with the number of responses. 

“Their answers were very clear – they want help,” Dr. Crabtree said. “They want this money to be spent to get more people in there to work with the kids.

One such action that will take place this June is a four-week summer-school session.

“As soon as school is out in May, we’ll have a week off and go right into a four-week period of summer school,” she stated. “Five days a week, 8 a.m. to noon, teachers will work with these children that are identified. It may not be all of our kids, but it’s the kids that are identified as needing somebody to help them fill this gap.”

Dr. Crabtree said 50 teachers were budgeted for summer school, though she told the Board that more will likely be necessary, as many of these students have an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) and would require the presence of special needs teachers. 

Also included in the summer-school budget, according to Dr. Crabtree, is transportation, a pick-up breakfast and lunch to take home. She added that a mid-morning snack and a brief social time may also be included in the itinerary. 

“I think the kids will be engaged in it and feeling very good about school, even though it’s June,” she opined.

Additionally, Dr. Crabtree said the district’s Learning Recovery & Extended Learning Plan involves funding for two more teachers at each of the three elementary schools, whose focus will primarily be on lower grade levels. 

“That’s where, if they haven’t met the standards they need, it’s going to be a struggle all the way through,” she explained. 

Another need identified by staff members, Dr. Crabtree continued, once again pertains to the district’s three elementary schools, this time in the way of guidance counselors. 

“Once upon a time, we had elementary guidance counselors, but that’s something we’ve lost along the way,” she stated. “We’ve got to make the kids healthy and strong again.”

Adding to that topic, Superintendent Howard expressed his excitement for the ability to once again have these positions filled at West, North and Southview elementary schools.

“When I came here 13 or 14 years ago, it really wasn’t that big of a deal that we didn’t have elementary counselors,” he explained. “But, here in the last few years, we’re seeing kids coming to us with all kinds of issues and problems, so we really need that at the elementary level. I’m going to do everything I can, that when these two years go by, at least those elementary counselors can be retained.”

The latter part of Howard’s comment is the cold, hard fact that this ESSER II money is one-time funding meant to last a period of two years, so any positions added may only last that long. However, Dr. Crabtree said she has heard rumors of additional funding down the road. 

“I have already heard there will be a round-three of funding,” she said. “I’m also hearing that some grants that have been competitive may come out to be entitlement money at some point. So, we’ll just wait and see.”

The Board approved Dr. Crabtree’s plan and also gave Superintendent Howard the authority to make changes as necessary, as Gov. DeWine and the Ohio Department of Education have described these plans as “living, breathing documents.”