S.C. schools deciding how to use $3.2 billion in recovery funding

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 10:22 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – Approximately $3.2 billion are coming into South Carolina schools and each individual district will decide how the majority is spent. The money comes from the COVID-19 recovery bills passed by the U.S. Congress over the past two years.

It’s supposed to go to help schools and students recover after the pandemic. However, with such a big category, the question is how do education officials want the districts to spend it.

South Carolina State Superintendent Molly Spearman and her team said they want districts to focus on what they know works.

“Really looking at quality programs that will move the needle for children to get their learning accelerated or caught up,” John Payne, deputy state superintendent, said. Officials with the S.C. Department of Education said one of the best ways to help students who may be behind is time face-to-face with educators.

Spearman said districts are already working to use these funds to hire more teachers to do just that.

“They are hiring additional people to be there at school or after school one-on-one with students,” Spearman said.

She added that they are also experiencing a staffing shortage but are looking to college students who can work under supervision or other creative ways to give students more quality time. “Someone with really strong resources, with really strong curriculum,” Spearman said.

One way districts are using these funds is keeping kids engaged over the summer.

“This summer’s going to be considerably different for us because we are going to hit a wider range of students k-12. It’s not going to have just learning loss initiatives and remediation but also acceleration opportunities,” Shane Robbins, district superintendent for Kershaw County, said. “Not all of them, but several of them really didn’t do well in our virtual environment and they need to be back in front of a teacher face-to-face not just for the accountability and just for that guided instruction that is just more positive for them.”

Kershaw County is offering more summer programs than ever, including ones to help kids transition to new grades academically and socially.

So far, though, Spearman has shown she is not accepting all plans at face value. She has asked 15 districts to go back and rework their academic recovery plans because they needed more.

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