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Greeneview Local School District Rises To Challenge Of Educating During Pandemic

Students sit spaced apart in a gymnasium for an Academic Booster Award program at Greeneview High School this past year.
From Geeneview Local Schools
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An Academic Booster Award program at Greeneview High School this past year.

Local school districts have received several rounds of COVID relief funding in the past year, with more funding on the way. But how does that money help in a year when so much of the education process has been upended for parents, students, and teachers?

To find out, we spoke to Isaac Seevers, superintendent of Greeneview Local School District in Greene County.

In this conversation he recaps the challenges his district faced in the last year — and what’s ahead:

Isaac Seevers: First, back in the spring during the shutdown, we received some rural support for our district that we utilized on purchasing computers and at home like Internet devices, some some hot spots for students to take home. And then we utilize we got the first round of what was ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds) money, a little over one hundred thousand dollars. And we use that for, you know, providing our online schooling option this year, the virtual option that we provided for students. We needed to update some of our furniture at our elementary school in order to accomplish that social distancing and then real expenses, you know, paper towels and bottle fillers instead of water fountains, cleaning supplies. You know, all of those things are really increased expenses that we weren't planning on.

We did receive the second round of ESSER, which is a little bit over six hundred thousand dollars. That has not all been spent yet. That's going to be one of these plans and things going forward. But also, it's going to be used to cover the increase in staffing costs for the year. [Substitute teacher] costs were up for us. We had staff members that were working after school hours to support the kids who are doing virtual learning at home. You know, I think the thing that's lost in all of this, like, yes, there are additional expenses, but we added school nurses this year in order to be able to accomplish a safe environment and that six hundred thousand dollars will be gone. You know, once we properly code things, that's that's not going to take long because we've spent at least that and more already this year.

Jerry Kenney: And you've got more funding on the way?

IS: I believe there is a third round of ESSER. We do not know exactly how much money that's going to be. We have been told to expect anywhere from two and a half to three times the amount of the second round. So, if my math serves me correctly, that's $1.5 million approximately, and that can be used over the next two to three years. We have been told to sort of expect with this third round of money, it will need to be spent on some specific types of responses. How do you address the academic barriers and the social emotional barriers?

You know, we have kids that are going to be coming back to school, haven't been in school in over a year. By the time they get here in August because they were virtual this past year, they didn't come to school from March on last year. You know, that's there's going to be some separation issues with them coming to school. And so mental health therapy supports for our students next year, which will come as an ongoing cost to the district as well.

JK: Isaac, you've got a pretty extensive kind of recovery plan listed on the Greenview District website. A big part of it seems to be about getting kids caught up. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

IS: Knowing a direction and a target is is really was a big part of the discussion for us. Right? It started with how do we know our kids are even behind? That's that's the key question. The assumption in these in this plan that we had to put online was that that there are learning gaps and you have to fix them, you know, and so we want to make sure we're not throwing good money at a problem that doesn't exist, you know, and how can we be more strategic in supporting something that we're already doing to make it usable across the board.

So, for our staff, it's one more tool on their toolbox. And for our students, it becomes something that will become part of just the regular routine. So it's a beginning of the year doing a benchmark: Where are they? What skills do they have already? What skills are they lacking? Middle of the year you do another benchmark. You know, what kind of progress have we've made? And at the end of the year, you do at the end of the year benchmark, we feel like that data is much better than what we receive from the state tests because it's an ongoing data source and we get real time feedback when the teacher uses that properly. It's also going to help. You know, here's a skill this kid is lacking in and we can provide them with intervention almost immediately, I guess.

JK: Finally, how would you assess Greeneview's response to the challenge that you all have faced in the last year?

IS: I'm extremely proud of the resilience of our staff and our students. Our staff has been extremely professional, understanding that kids come first. Our students have risen to the expectations because they recognized this was their way to maintain some sense of normalcy and they wanted to be in school. And for that, I think we are better off as a district than we were this time a year ago, because our people know that we can be challenged to do new things. I'm extremely proud of how our people responded.