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Education Corner: Data prove effective usage of COVID relief funds

FRANKLIN LIVING—

As we approach the end of the third school year to be affected by the global pandemic that began in March 2020, it is encouraging to see so many areas of life returning to the way they used to be before our worlds were turned upside down. 

Socially, we’ve been so thankful for sports seasons that were largely back to normal; in-person events returning to normal; walking through the halls of our schools and being able to see the smiling faces of our students and staff; and being able to connect in ways that have been difficult the past two years. 

While we are extremely excited about these things, we are also celebrating the normalcy and improvements that are being seen in academics – an area everyone in the educational community has been concerned about since the pandemic began. 

With the implementation of virtual learning and the changes that had to be made to in-person learning, academic life has been challenging for the past three school years. Teaching and learning were hindered by virtual set-ups, increased absenteeism, modified classroom settings, face coverings and other factors – and these hinderances began to affect grades and test scores and create learning gaps that needed to be closed. 

RCS administration began to discuss ways the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds could be used to bridge those gaps. Ultimately the funding was funneled into the Champ’s Camp after-school learning program to help selected high-risk students. It was also used to hire additional instructional personnel, including six teachers and 10 bilingual aides, to help students who were falling behind. 

Recently data has come in showing how many of the third-graders enrolled in Champ’s Camp have made academic improvements. Out of 30 students, 24 started the school year at high risk for not meeting their end-of-the-year academic goals. Five students were at moderate risk, and one student was classified as low risk. When the second semester began, however, 12 students were still classified as high risk; eight students were at moderate risk; and 10 students were labeled low risk! 

We have been encouraged to see these improvements show in the data, but we’re also encouraged by the verbal feedback from teachers about the growth they have seen in their classrooms in students enrolled in these programs. After so much adversity from the pandemic, we are thankful to know the COVID relief funding is helping our students get back on track and finish this school year strong. 

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Heath Grimes is the superintendent of Russellville City Schools. He and his wife Amy have three daughters: Leah, Halle and Erin.

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