The money was there, but not the teachers.
Gov. Tim Walz announced that he is allocating $75 million of the state’s American Rescue Plan funds to enhance summer learning programs and mental health support in response to COVID learning loss.
Superintendent Karsten Anderson agreed that schools across the state need the aid, however, Red Wing Public Schools’ immediate priority was finding enough teachers to run summer programs -- which the district did in the nick of time.
“Our teachers and our parents are tired,” Carley Seifert, student support coordinator for Sunnyside Elementary, said during a recent School Board meeting. “We were trying to find teachers and were asking and asking.”
The district cannot mandate that teachers and support staff work during the summer. After wondering if they would even have enough staff, administrators finally received the number of volunteers needed right before the first session of Summer Blast starts June 14.
Summer Blast is designed to augment learning, but also help students catch up after a year of in-person, hybrid and remote education.
Every time a person would volunteer to work a summer program, the coordinating staff cheered, Seifert said.
The Summer Blast program currently has a waitlist and is at maximum capacity.
“We just really want to extend thanks to all the people who have taken part of their summer to work this program,” Seifert said. “People have put Red Wing Public Schools’ children as a priority even though they are tired.”
Now Anderson and other leaders can focus on deciding where to best use the district’s portion of the state financial support.
Districts across the state will receive a certain amount of aid for specific areas of education.
The following is a breakdown of the $75 million and the areas in which districts need to spend the assistance.
$34.614 million to expand mental health support, partner with community businesses to develop summer mentor programs, bring summer programs into the community and provide students with summer field trips.
$20 million for preschool and prekindergarten summer programs.
$6.011 million to invest in school-linked mental health grants.
$3.25 million to expand student access to tutoring.
$10 million to increase adult education funding.
$1.125 million to help with learning acceleration and college readiness programs.
“Our students have sacrificed so much this past year, and the learning disruptions caused by COVID-19 have impacted every single student across Minnesota,” Walz said during the announcement at Otter Lake Elementary. “These summer programs will help make up for missed learning opportunities and will help our students conquer the school year in the fall. Our students deserve this investment.”