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Several Pott. County school districts receive Incentive Grants

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star

Several school districts throughout Pottawatomie County received Incentive Grants which were awarded to other districts throughout the state by Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Supt. of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister Wednesday.

According to Hofmeister, 150 districts, including 11 Pott. County districts, received grants totaling $16 million to help educators recover from the impact COVID-19 had on student learning and ensure students are able to access learning opportunities in the new school year

These districts include Bethel which received $200,000, Chandler which received $111,356, Grove which received $100,000, Maud which received $50,000, North Rock Creek which received $33,000, Prague which received $200,000, Shawnee which received $300,000, South Rock Creek which received $46,000, Stroud which received $100,000, Tecumseh which received $200,000 and White Rock which received $49,000.

According to Tecumseh Public Schools Superintendent Tom Wilse, TPS will use their grant for several items including providing hot spots for students to continue distance learning, purchasing Chromebooks for students to complete the district's one-to-one plan and funding more staff training for the Pre-K through fifth grade reading program: 95 Percent Club.

According to Dr. Blake Moody, North Rock Creek Public Schools Superintendent, NRC is using its $33,000 grant to purchase an online teaching platform for both assessment and instruction in the event some or all students have to return to distance learning.

Moody said North Rock Creek wants to ensure students can continue their education during the year in the event schools need to shut down due to COVID-19 concerns.

Hofmeister said competitive grants consisted of $8 million from the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) set-aside in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund and $8 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. Both ESSER and GEER are components of the federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Under the CARES Act, the OSDE funds must meet “emergency needs” of districts in response to COVID-19, while GEER dollars expended to schools must be to those “most significantly impacted by coronavirus.”

Districts will spend Incentive Grant funds in five priority areas in which students were impacted by COVID-19 – expanding connectivity for students, purchasing a content management system (CMS) or learning management system (LMS), providing mental health supports for students, compensatory services to at-risk students and training in the science of reading for teachers of pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

A total of 360 districts applied for the Incentive Grants. The number of districts that indicated each priority area are:

Connectivity, 345

LMS/CMS, 212

Mental health supports for students, 84

Science of reading for elementary-age students, 84

Compensatory services for at-risk students, 74

“Our districts indicated an urgent need for funds dedicated to connectivity and digital learning materials, and for good reason,” said Hofmeister. “The pandemic has created a clarion call throughout the state and nation to bridge the digital divide. It is imperative that districts be equipped to take swift and decisive action to ensure all kids are learning amid a global pandemic, including in virtual or blended environments that best meet local context and the needs of families.”

Gov. Stitt said the grants align with one of his priority initiatives.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the importance of digital transformation and the need for our students to have access to quality technology in order to enhance learning opportunities,” said Gov. Stitt. “I appreciate the commitment of Supt. Hofmeister, OSDE and our local school districts as we continue to ensure these dollars are maximized to the benefit of our students and educators across the state.”

Applications were reviewed and awarded within five categories based on student enrollment of up to 500; 501-1,000; 1,001-2,500; 2,501-7,500 and 7,501 and up. Awards ranged from $13,596 to $500,000 and are available for districts to draw down through June 30, 2021.

“We are grateful to our federal delegation and Gov. Stitt for this funding to mitigate the significant impact COVID-19 has had on student learning,” said Hofmeister. “It is critical that we continue to explore additional avenues of support for our students and schools.”