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Waco ISD rolls out $33.3 million plan to “help kids and improve libraries”

 

During the monthly school board meeting for May, Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon briefed trustees on the district’s plans for $33.3 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan. Over the next three years, Waco ISD will use those funds to provide academic support to help close learning gaps that emerged during the pandemic, social-emotional support to meet mental health needs, and support for a culture of literacy.

“Put simply, this is a plan to help kids and improve libraries,” Kincannon said. “The pandemic has challenged both students and educators alike. With this additional funding, we have an opportunity to give our teachers and principals the resources that they need not just to overcome the challenges of the past year and a half but to provide our students with a solid foundation for their future success.” 

Chart shows allocation of stimulus funds by category.

Nearly $15 million will be targeted to address learning loss during the pandemic. This includes the addition of 12 elementary reading intervention teachers and three Reading Recovery teacher leaders, who will be trained in intensive, individualized instruction for first graders that have difficulty learning to read and write. Those three teacher leaders will be assigned to the three elementary campuses with the lowest state accountability ratings, but they will also train other teachers to provide the same literacy support at their campuses.

At the same time, the district will also be transforming the library experience for students in all grade levels. The plan calls for a $3.5 million investment in campus libraries. That includes $1.5 million in new books plus new furniture to create “warm and welcoming” library environments. Library staff will also receive outside training and support.

To meet students’ mental health needs, the district plans to use the stimulus funding to add six school counselors and a second coordinator for social and emotional learning. Teachers will receive training in classroom management as well as mental health, trauma and resiliency. In all, $3.8 million in stimulus funding will go to mental health and social-emotional learning over the next three years.

“There is an incredible sense of urgency to this work,” Kincannon said. “We will be submitting our application for the first $33.3 million in funding next week and have already posted job descriptions for some of the positions that we are adding to help students. When classes start in the fall, nearly all of these programs will already be in place.”

When that happens, more Waco ISD students will be learning in person. During the board meeting, Kincannon also announced that the district does not plan to offer a remote learning option for the 2021-2022 school year.

“It is clear that there is a difference between remote and in-person instruction,” Kincannon said. “Like school districts across the country, we have learned that we can’t support our students as effectively when they aren't with us for in-person instruction. Attendance and academic achievement have suffered. Our remote students have struggled to pass their courses and earn credits, and their achievement on local and standardized assessments lags behind their peers who are in person.”