HCS discusses how to distribute millions in American Rescue Plan funds, focus shifts to learning loss

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 7:56 AM EDT
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CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - Horry County Schools asked parents, teachers, and staff about how they wanted to spend the district’s $125 million in American Rescue Plan money.

A survey from the district shows the top priority, by far, is addressing learning loss after two disruptive years in and out of the classroom.

HCS said survey results also show another top priority is to focus on improving air quality in schools, followed by improving summer learning and after school programs.

The deadline to submit a concrete plan for using the money isn’t until Aug. 24, but the district said they have already made some progress.

HCS hired 31 learning loss interventionists for elementary schools to work with students in small groups. Teachers will let the specialists know which students have fallen behind.

But for middle schools, the district said they’ve only been able to hire eight interventionists for reading learning loss. They need 15 just for reading alone. And for math, the numbers are even lower. They’ve only been able to hire one math specialist out of the 15 they need.

But the hiring vacancies don’t end there.

During Monday night’s Horry County School Board workshop, staff also told the board there are currently 40 teacher vacancies across all levels, meaning some teachers will have to teach during planning periods.

The district said some schools are hit harder than others, with many new hires gravitating towards and away from certain schools based on geography.

To fill in the rest of the gaps, they said they are using long-term substitute teachers too.

Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson said while plans aren’t final, they won’t waste any money.

“The ESSER funds - it might be a lot of money but I can guarantee you between now and the time it runs out, we’ll spend it. I can assure you we’ll spend it - we’ll find a place to spend it,” Richardson said.

The board will meet again on Aug. 23, the day before final plans are due.

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