At their regular Board meeting last week, Churchill County School Board Trustees heard from Superintendent, Doctor Summer Stephens that “Specials” are being restored to the elementary schools this fall and will be funded out of the general fund.
According to Stephens, Kindergarten through 5th grade will each have their own Physical Education teacher, and students at E.C Best and Numa Elementary schools will receive a semester each of Music and Art in each grade. The Art teacher will be at E.C. Best for a semester while the Music teacher is at Numa and then they will switch schools.
“I’m really excited about it,” said E.C. Best Principal, Keith Boone, “we’re going to use this as a way to incorporate more co-teaching.” For example, when the students of a Second-grade teacher are at Art class, that teacher will go to another class to help out by either pushing the higher kids or bringing the lower kids up to grade-level standards. “We were able to work out with our schedule and we are really excited,” said Boone.
Funding to restore the special equipment and supplies needed for these programs has also been set aside. “All the positions are in the general fund and are not grant-funded,” said Stephens, “which is a step up for the longevity and continuity for keeping these programs in the future.”
In additional business, Trustees heard a report from Comptroller Christie Fielding regarding the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget. She said the final numbers are in from the legislative session and at first glance appeared to give an increase in revenue. “However, we’re no longer in the “Hold Harmless Status” and the largest portion of our revenue from the Department of Education will be driven by enrollment and we won’t have a student count until October 1,” she said.
Hold Harmless is a provision established during the 2019 Legislature that protects school districts from an unexpected loss in revenue as the State transitions from the Nevada Plan to the Pupil Centered Funding Plan.
The legislature decided on full implementation of the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan where all the taxes are paid directly to the Department of Education instead of a phased-in approach where the district still received the taxes and also the per-pupil amount from the state. “With the final numbers from the legislature, $25 million of the $30 million will be driven by student count, and until the October 1 count, we won’t truly know so we need to be extra cautious,” said Fielding.
Additionally, parts of the funding are specific to certain programs and students and may be outside the general fund. The district is waiting for further information from the DOE regarding that issue. Fielding said because of all the unknowns, the district chose not to do a budget revision, deciding to be “cautious and conservative until all questions are concretely answered by the DOE.”
The final per-pupil allotment for Churchill County will be $8,096 per pupil and is an increase from last year. However, both Fielding and Summer reminded Trustees that the DOE has rolled many grant programs into that amount. For instance, Stephens said the District used to receive $75,000 for each safe schools professional, but that grant has now been rolled into the general fund and absorbed by the per-pupil allotment. Fielding said the biggest grant, class-size reduction in the amount of $909,000 has also been rolled into the general fund and the per-pupil amount.
Fielding said as the information continues to come from the DOE, she will update the Board members.
Trustees also heard a report from Deena Porretta regarding the status of the Summer School program. There are currently 311 students enrolled in the program, from elementary, the middle school, and high school in what is the largest summer school the district has ever had. Porretta said each day there are new applications for the program and calls daily from elementary parents to see if there is room for their students. “We cleared the waiting list today but now we have a new list already because of our small number of teachers and so much demand,” she said.
There are currently 22 teachers, 10 Instructional Assistants, 2 English Language Learner Specialists, and 2 Student Services positions. Both the High School and Middle School are using Edgenuity, an online instructional program for students who are credit deficient.
Additionally, the Middle School is running a Summer Success program that seven students have taken advantage of, working to improve their math and writing skills.
Porretta replied to Trustee Kathryn Whitaker’s inquiry about goals for summer school, saying that when she was hired on the district was focused on providing transportation, breakfast, and lunch, assisting credit deficient students earn credits, help students graduate, make-up for credit deficiencies at the Middle School, and in the elementary program, fill in the gaps for students who were recommended by their teachers.
There were five High School seniors identified by counselors as being deficient for graduation and so far one of those has earned a diploma. There are 66 high school students enrolled in summer school with 58 attending in person, while 8 are attending virtually.
Stephens said that next year there is an expectation that students will be identified much earlier. “We have a new counselor on board and with the new principal and his expectations around the whole school year we know it will be different, I know we haven’t served everyone we need to this summer, but it's been a good step and it will get even better.”
Board President Matt Hyde agreed, saying, “I’m just a really big fan of getting ahead of it because once they’re credit deficient, it gets really hard.”