SUMMERVILLE – With millions of dollars in COVID relief support on the table, the Dorchester District 2 community considers hiring more teachers a top priority.
DD2 is expected to receive more than $ 40 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding. The support is part of nearly $ 3 billion in federal COVID aid that can be used by school districts across the United States over the next three years.
District officials held a public consultation meeting on July 19 at Summerville High School to discuss how best to use DD2 funds. A small group of parents and staff joined with school board members to discuss the unprecedented funding.
âThis is an opportunity to do things that we have never done before in our school district,â said DD2 Superintendent Joseph Pye.
One of the recurring topics throughout the meeting was the hiring of more teachers. Mary Rita Watson, a district reading worker who attended the meeting, raised concerns about class sizes.
Part of her job is to remove students from the classroom to help them catch up with their reading levels. Having to do this with a large pool of students is a challenge, she said.
Ideally, she would work with about four or six students at a time to help identify any challenges they were facing. Instead, she works with around 20 people, she said.
“It won’t be effective if it’s not a small group,” she said.
The lack of teachers is one of the reasons for these numbers, Pye said. Fewer teachers mean bigger classes.
As of July 20, the district had 23 positions open for teachers. These openings occur when teachers resign or decide not to sign their return contract.
âThere is a serious shortage of teachers,â Pye said.
A parent of a grade eight student asked during the meeting how many teachers had been hired for that grade level. Although officials could not respond specifically for each grade level at the time, they said the district had hired 200 teachers since February.
These new hires were a mix of open teacher positions that were not returning for the school year and new positions that were expected to be supported by COVID relief funds.
The $ 40 million for DD2 will be the third relief fundraising plan for a total of over $ 62 million in district support. To receive this additional funding, school districts must submit a detailed plan for how the money will be used.
“This is why we take the opinion of the public,” said Tina Meunier, district finance director. “We haven’t received any money.”
Some of DD2’s initial proposals for funds include supporting Saturday tutoring sessions, updating and repairing school buildings, maintaining parent and family engagement centers, and supporting mental health resources. like the board.
School districts are also required to organize community surveys to obtain funds. Almost 3,000 community members participated in DD2’s survey on the use of relief funds. Most were parents.
When asked what should be a priority when it comes to funding, survey respondents highlighted reducing class sizes, purchasing educational technology and mental health supports as their top choices.
“I am determined to ensure that my son gets a good education,” said Mary Hoffman, a parent of DD2, at the meeting.
According to federal guidelines, the district must use 20% of the funding, or about $ 8 million, to combat learning loss. The main suggestions from the community to help overcome the learning loss were tutoring, after-school programs, and summer enrichment programs.
Officials said the goal is to use the funds to support their pre-existing enrichment programs through 2024. According to Pye, the district will likely use more than the 20% required to tackle learning loss.
“Our problem is going to see how far we can extend it,” he said.
The public comment period will continue until July 30. Community members can visit the website at ddtwo.org to add their contribution.
Another public consultation meeting is scheduled for August 9. There, district officials expect to present a final proposed plan for the funds to the community.
Reach Jerrel floyd at 843-937-5558. Follow him on Twitter @ jfloyd134.