By MIKE WILLIAMS
Currently there are 580 students enrolled in Pulaski County Schools’ learning loss programs in an effort to close the learning gaps caused by the COVID pandemic.
Roxanne Souma, Coordinator of Secondary Education told the school board at their meeting last week that increases in state and federal funding for COVID recovery had financed the programs, including the hiring of 70 tutors across all seven county schools.
Programs include before school tutoring, after school tutoring, enrichment/STEAM and virtual tutoring. Beginning Feb. 26 a fifth program – Saturday School – will begin at the middle school and will target student needs leading up to SOL tests.
Critzer Elementary leads the way with 107 students enrolled in the programs followed by Pulaski with 100. Eighty-two students are enrolled at Dublin followed by 73 at Riverlawn and 56 at Snowville.
Souma said the learning loss programs at the middle and high schools were launched later – in late November and early December – and the number of participants would grow in the spring.
Currently, 130 students are enrolled at the middle school and only 35 at PCHS.
While the tutoring was offered to all students, most of the participants were recommended by classroom teachers. Parents and students were able to request participation as well.
Souma told the school board that some students were participating to make up zeroes in classes, while some are just seeking help with course work.
Before school tutoring lasts 30 minutes, four days a week and students receive help making up homework or addressing different course work needs.
After school tutoring lasts an hour, two days a week and run until 4:45 or 5 p.m. Meals and snacks are provided, and students get help with reading and math skills.
Enrichment and STEAM sessions last an hour every Wednesday and every other Monday in elementary schools and Tuesdays and Thursdays at the middle school.
Students get an afternoon snack and gain instruction in the core areas of STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and math.
Good Jobs Grant Initiative
Also at last week’s meeting, the board voted unanimously to support the Good Jobs Grant application.
Submitted for consideration by CTE Director Megan Atkinson, the initiative involves setting up and structuring CTE classrooms at high schools in the southwest region like workplaces.
The program primarily addresses how schools can provide the skilled labor needs of businesses and slow the out-migration of the region’s young people.
Parts of the program are already in place at the high school and is in widespread use in West Virginia high schools.
Graduation Date Set
The school board set Friday, May 20 as the date for graduation in the spring.
School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers told the board the school system’s contract with the Equity Collaborative organization ends this month following one final training session as part of the school system’s equity program.
Siers said there are no plans to renew the contract next school year.
Siers said school officials are expecting to receive revised guidance from the State Department of Education on how to meet the cultural competency training requirements for teachers established under state code.
“To my knowledge that requirement has not changed, but the guidance from the VDOE can be changed,” Siers said. “We haven’t received anything saying it will [change], but there are a lot of things at VDOE being looked at right now and we expect probably by the end of the year we’ll know what some of those changes might look like.”
With that in mind, Siers said the school system is not moving forward with any type of professional development in that area until it gets revised guidance or are told guidance from VDOE won’t change.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin, in his “Day One” list of executive orders, signed Executive Order No. 1 which ordered the Superintendent of Public Instruction to review the Department of Education’s Cultural Competency Training to determine if it or any portion promotes inherently divisive concepts, and take action consistent with the laws of Virginia to modify such training to end the use of inherently divisive concepts.
In addition, the order states, the Superintendent shall make recommendations on how the Department of Education and school division can develop and make available to all teachers and school leaders model professional development and training so teachers and schools are prepared to engage students on important civics and historical issues in a fair and unbiased manner without imposing their own personal beliefs.
The Equity Collaborative has drawn fire from local citizens who believe the organization’s model for training teachers includes Critical Race Theory. The organization has been mentioned in the middle of the equity and Critical Race Theory controversy in Loudoun County.