Palm Beach County looking to hire more than 300 to help combat 'COVID Slide'

Posted at 7:14 AM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-29 07:14:44-04

AS WE APPROACH THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR, the School District of Palm Beach County is focused on trying to get kids caught up on learning. — As we approach the new school year, the School District of Palm Beach County is focused on trying to get kids caught up on learning.

Many have fallen behind over the past year and a half because of the so-called 'COVID Slide,' At the end of the first semester of last school year, district records showed more than 51,000 students in need of high levels of support in English Language Arts and Math.

The district launched a Student Academic Support Plan to focus on those students who need the most help and start to get them caught up. The next phase of that plan will look to fill 369 positions across all school levels to specifically target lost learning.

Every school will receive support, but the district has evaluated which schools have the most need and will focus efforts there.

The plan calls for 206 positions at the elementary school level, which will target all students and schools with majority of schools on free and reduced lunch and students with the greatest learning needs.

It also includes 93 positions at the middle school level, targeting literacy and math support for schools with the greatest percentage of free and reduced lunch, and 70 positions for high schools, targeting on time graduation due to increased cut scores for SAT and ACT and for schools with the greatest percent of free and reduced lunch students.

The positions will be funded through federal stimulus money that came in during the pandemic. The district is setting aside $30.6 million for them.

Chief of Equity and Wellness Keith Oswald says, "we tiered out our schools and the schools where more students have unfinished learning and need more support, we tiered those out at elementary, middle and high, to provide additional positions at each level. At elementary school, we're providing a couple of positions that will work with early childhood in k-2 classrooms to support those students to really work with the students who are struggling the most."

He says the positions created will cover a wide spectrum of needs. "Another position is to build acceleration for kids who have the potential to be in gifted programs and our accelerated math programs AMP, and to build that capacity out so that a school has a strong and robust gifted and acceleration plan," he says. "We're adding positions in our high schools that will focus directly on graduation, so they are going to work with students who have not earned the requirement for a standard high school diploma."

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Glenda Sheffield says the district is glad to have this boost from the federal government to invest in its team and teachers. "Our teachers cannot do this alone, they can't do the heavy lifting alone, they need that support," she says. For kindergarten through second graders, she says they'll add "SAI teachers- supplemental academic instruction, those are for our students who are really struggling and having some additional needs and looking at those fundamental reading skills and they need to be tiered and receive some individual instruction there."

They'll also hire specialists to do the professional development for these roles, and want to make sure they find the right people for the jobs. "If we are just filling them just to say they are filled, and the skill set- or we don't have the right individual, then we are not going to achieve the results or have the impact we are wanting to have," Sheffield says.

You can read more about the plan and position descriptions in this budget presentation, beginning on page 10 here.