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Funding triples for EL students

Operations for Russellville City Schools are going as planned despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with the system approving project bids and receiving positive financial news at its recent school board meeting.

State Superintendent Eric Mackey approved an increase in the state budget for English Learner students from $7 million to $14 million. This means RCS is expecting an increase from $120 per English language learner to upward of $400.

“This will certainly be beneficial to us when educating students,” said RCS Superintendent Heath Grimes. “We are already putting the money into their education, but now we will not have to pull so much money from our reserve for this.”

Grimes said RCS spends more than $1 million a year educating EL students, and the hope is that the state will eventually cover half of that expense.

“We are very appreciative of Mr. Grimes for leading the fight for not only us but other school systems with EL students,” said RCS board member Jerry Groce.

RCS will also be receiving more than $700,000 from the CARES Act to go toward bridging the achievement gap caused by COVID-19.

Grimes said the plan is to use this money toward summer school expenses to help bring students to the level they should be. RCS plans to hold summer school in July with small groups.

Grimes said Mackey also announced dates for the upcoming 2020-21 school year. As of now, school is planning to resume as normal in the fall. Athletics are also projected to begin in June and July, with fall sports proceeding as usual.

Grimes said Mackey did recommend schools delay beginning schools in August an extra two weeks, but Grimes said right now, it appears that decision is to be made at the local level.

“It’s something that right now I don’t necessarily want to do, but we might end up having to,” Grimes said. “I don’t know why two weeks in August is going to matter that much. If you’re going to start Aug. 16, why wouldn’t you start Aug. 6?”

Grimes said right now the plan is to keep the school calendar the board has already approved because there is little benefit to students or teachers delaying the start of the school year.

After several months of evaluating damage to West Elementary School caused by a fire in November, the board approved a repair bid of $396,000 to go to Hovater Metal Works.