$1.7 million awarded to help Eagle County Schools meet pandemic costs | VailDaily.com

$1.7 million awarded to help Eagle County Schools meet pandemic costs

With more students falling behind, district says priority will be programs to address students’ “learning loss”

A parade of students and parents heads to Brush Creek Elementary on Aug. 25.
Nate Peterson/npeterson@vaildaily.com

Eagle County Schools will get more than $1.7 million in new Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to help it meet expenses related to the ongoing pandemic, the district announced on Friday.

The $1,713,773 allocation from Colorado Department of Education comes with strict usage guidelines and is subject to state auditing, the district said, but qualified expenses include programs to help students recover from learning loss during the pandemic.

Eagle County Schools said that it plans to prioritize credit-recovery programs, summer school programs and intervention programs to help address student learning deficiencies that have developed this school year.

Across the nation, as well as in local schools, many students are struggling to keep up with learning and grade-level expectations in a year heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. A significantly higher than normal percentage of students are recording D’s and F’s in their subjects, indicating the need for more robust credit recovery and intervention programs than in a typical school year, the district said.

“Students are incredibly resilient and capable of recovering from learning loss. As a matter of course, each new school year begins with assessments so that teachers know where to start with students,” Eagle County Schools Superintendent Philip Qualman said in a news release announcing the funding. “The pandemic has increased the volume of students falling behind, so the task is bigger than usual. These funds enable schools to develop more innovative ways to help students recover.”

District leaders, including principals and school-level administration teams, are working on programs that can be implemented immediately to help students who are behind academically. While those programs are not yet finalized, considerations include recovery and intervention programs on Wednesdays and Saturdays, evening sessions, and summer school.

The primary focus will be on graduating seniors and juniors to ensure they have the credits needed to graduate on time, though interventions will happen at all grade levels. Program details will be communicated directly to students and families who will benefit from the extra support, the district said.

“Recovery requires extra work from students, so it’s important for parents to help their children connect with educational opportunities and efforts to ensure their future success,” Qualman said. “When students take ownership and responsibility for their learning as an effort that ultimately benefits them personally, they tend to have more drive and self-motivation.”

The ESSER funds cannot be used for pay raises, staff bonuses, or for the addition of permanent full-time positions or to supplement general funds. They can be used to cover extra-duty pay such as hours worked during summer school, nights and weekends.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Eagle County Schools has experienced an increase in costs related to adapting to public health and safety guidelines, and previously-awarded ESSER funds have been essential to keeping those costs from significantly impacting normal operational funds, the district said.

The ESSER fund stems from the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that the U.S. Congress enacted on March 27, 2020, and is part of the $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund that legislation enacted.

Colorado has been allocated nearly $121 million from the ESSER fund, and must allocate at least 90% of the funding to local education agencies, according to Colorado Department of Education’s website.

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