Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Cindy Glasson
Reporter Photographer 

HSCSD stakeholders discuss programs, grants


by Cindy Glasson

Hot Springs County School District #1 held their consolidated grant planning meeting for stakeholders on Tuesday, May 9, discussing each of the various grants and what they are used for.

District staff, parents and members of the public attended the meeting learning that funding for schools comes from two basic areas, state funding and federal grants.

Superintendent Dustin Hunt made it very clear that the grant monies cannot be used to supplant programs, but are intended to be used to supplement programs which are already in place.

Each of the grants the district depends on have certain criteria the district must report before receiving or being considered for funding.

For instance, we have to prove that our schools are not persistently dangerous schools, that a crisis plan is in effect and regular drills for the plan are conducted, homeless students can receive assistance and that the district has a student wellness policy in place with annual reviews.

Head of maintenance, Jere Apland, has been working on security measures for the schools for the past three years including building security to supplement the crisis plan.

The wellness policy is reviewed each year, taking government suggestions into account and rewriting the policy when necessary to ensure the nutrition and exercise requirements are included for all grade levels.

A big change was made for this school year – the implementation of “made from scratch” items on the lunch menus.

Parents have often questioned what can be done since many of the older students are still hungry after lunch.

Federal guidelines have determined what the calorie intake should be for students, often forgetting that students sometimes need added calories, especially if they are participating in sports.

Hunt said, with the relaxing of some of those guidelines, they are already looking into ways to prevent those active students from being hungry after lunch.

Along with the nutritional aspect of wellness, there is also exercise, most commonly known as P.E.

Some changes have been made in that arena, too, with the start of programs that are more life-time sports such as hiking, climbing and biking, exercise students may be more apt to use even after they’re out of school.

One item that is crucial in receiving many of the grants is proof that our educators meet the “highly qualified” requirement.

How do you differentiate between qualified and highly qualified?

All teachers are certified, however, 95% of the teaching staff and 100% of the district’s teachers meet the highly qualified requirement.

Highly qualified indicates the teacher has passed the Praxis test and has recertified as an educator every five years. Pay scale is dependent on the teacher’s level of education so continuing their schooling during the summer months is important.

21st Century Community Learning Center – The purpose of this grant is to enhance student’s academic performance through enrichment activities outside their school day – the Lights On Afterschool program.

This is the only grant the district uses that is actually a competitive grant. In other words, the district has to show they have a better program than another district in order to receive the funding.

The program is currently at the end of the five-year Cohort 8 grant cycle and have applied for another five years. They will not know until October whether or not they have been chosen.

The Cohort 10 grant is going into its fourth year of use by the district.

Things are still somewhat up in the air as to what the grant amount will be since the current federal administration had plans to eliminate the program altogether. However, an omnibus bill passed recently to continue the program.

McKinney-Vento homeless – A grant to address needs of homeless students to help them succeed in school, this grant defines homeless youth as lacking regular, fixed and adequate nighttime residence. They may be living in a shelter, hotel or public place not designated for sleeping.

Jim Lash, who oversees the distribution of funds from the McKinney-Vento grant says we are actually seeing more kids in this kind of crisis every year. In fact, Lash said there are 4-5 new students in this predicament this year.

The rules for the grant have been tightened up by the feds this year, however, it is reviewed and qualifications are changed every year.

The grant can be used for clothing, books, free lunches and other items the student may need.

Title I-A – The Title 1-A grant focuses on reading and math for K-4 students providing additional resources for teachers, including books, supplies and materials. In addition it helps with afterschool enrichment programs geared toward reading and math.

Laurie Graves, principal at Ralph Witters Elementary (RWE) said the grant has proven successful with just 69 percent of third grade students testing proficient in reading in 2016 while that number jumped significantly, to 83 percent in 2017.

The grant requires proof of a certain percentage of students in the “at risk” category, that there is an afterschool program in place and that there is parent and community involvement in the process.

Title II-A – The purpose of the Title II-A grant is to provide professional development for educators along with recruiting and retention of highly qualifies teachers and administrators.

Breez Daniels, principal at Thermopolis Middle School (TMS) who handles the grant funds said with all the cuts being made district wide, many people are wondering why the teachers and administrators are still traveling around, taking classes and going to conferences.

Funding for that type of professional development comes from the Title II-A funding source so no monies from the district budget are used.

The grant also allows the district to recruit and retain highly qualified staff and provides equipment, materials and supplies to support professional development.

Perkins Vocational and Technical – Funding from the Perkins grant is set aside to provide secondary vocational and technical training including equipment and supplies, career planning software and teacher training to integrate technology into the classroom.

It also provides for business and industry partnerships such as community work experience and the career fair.

Britton VanHeule oversees the grant, which is up for renewal this year.

As with the other grants, there are certain criteria that must be met to qualify for the grant and VanHeule said they are in the process of re-writing their assessments and he is hopeful they will be able to create even more offerings for the vocational and technical students in the coming years.

IDEA Part B 611 – Lash oversees this grant as well, focusing on supporting special education and related services for students with disabilities.

Grant funds are used for a number of things in the district, including technology, early intervention and professional development for special education instructional needs and special education law.

A big part of this grant relies on communication with parents and inclusion of students in the classroom with the use of differentiated instruction and materials, equipment and training of staff.

IDEA Part B 619 – In order to identify students with disabilities as early as possible, Lash, along with Amy Ready, oversees the federally funded IDEA Part B 619 grant.

The grant provides for early childhood screening, parenting classes and networking along with equipment and preparation for pre-school to kindergarten transition for students with disabilities.

Bridges Summer School and Extended Day – Bridges is the one state funded grant used to provide extended services, intervention and enrichment for identified struggling students.

Bridges is primarily used for K-12 summer school programs and for afterschool academic support programs.

The extended day portion of the grant is used to provide tutoring and other academic opportunities before classes begin in the morning and also after school tutoring.

According to Hunt, this funding has been drastically reduced this year due to the cuts made by the legislature this spring.

In the past, summer school was available for up to six weeks in order to help students gain ground academically and support struggling students, however, with the current legislative cuts, summer school will only be available for six days this summer.


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