After receiving state grant, School District of Tomahawk set to expand summer school program
Courtesy of the School District of Tomahawk
TOMAHAWK – The School District of Tomahawk recently received a $525,000.00 state grant that will go towards expanding summer school programming.
ESSER III grant program
The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) recently completed the external and internal review of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III Summer School grant applications.
This grant authorized states to use 1% of their American Rescue Plan (ARP) 2021, in the amount of $15.4 million for Wisconsin, to be used for evidence-based enrichment programs.
The purpose of this competitive grant funding is to address the academic, social, emotional and mental health needs of students most severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through high-quality and evidence-based summer learning programs.
The grants were allocated through a competitive grant process. All applicants were required to receive an average score of 3 (or 48 average total score) to be considered for funding.
For this competition, 66 total eligible applications were submitted, with 51 applications meeting the average score requirement. In all, 48 applicants will receive funding from the $15.4 million allocation. The project period for this grant is March 1, 2023 through Sept. 30, 2024.
The School District of Tomahawk received $525,000.00 of the $15.4 million, one of the largest grants awarded through the program.
Several other area districts also received funding, including Colby, Cornell and Medford.
To view a full list of ESSER III Summer School Grant recipients, visit www.tinyurl.com/4ubjxp7n.
Tomahawk’s grant application
Wendy Simonis, Director of Pupil Services and Special Education for the School District of Tomahawk, wrote the grant and led the team that developed the grant.
The grant required the district to identify stakeholders to be identified in the community to determine readiness for grant implementation, a detailed plan demonstrating need, an action plan, measurable goals, the identification of barriers, data collection, community collaboration and sharing of information with the public.
Thersea Burzynski, Director of Teaching and Learning, compiled district data and worked with Simonis to identify root causes, determine barriers and establish priority statements. Patti Hilgendorf, Executive Director of Kinship of Tomahawk, then joined the process, committing as the first community partner of the grant.
District Administrator Wendell Quesinberry, Bookkeeper Sandy Holquist and Simonis then developed the budget narrative, determined the scope and sequence of the project and determined the action steps for implementation.
Following being selected to receive the grant, key team members took over the summer school programming.
Meghan Barker has assumed the role of summer school coordinator and has rejuvenated the summer school program. Her enthusiasm and commitment to developing quality programming is evident in the initial programming being offered.
The grant started with a goal of one community partner the first year and five the second year, which she has already exceeded.
Barker also put in a great deal of time and effort with Coleen Frisch, District Administrative Assistant, to develop a system for online registration to simplify the registration process for families.
The grant runs for two years through the summer of 2024, covering summer school expenses outlined in the grant.
The School District of Tomahawk sought to expand its summer school program to meet academic and social emotional needs of students. In recent years, we have seen a decline in summer school enrollment.
The goal is to achieve supporting our target population of students through a summer school theme of “Treasures of Tomahawk.”
We recognize that our students, our natural environment, and community partners are those treasures that we seek to cultivate. In acknowledgement of these treasures and in an effort to support student and community voice, we seek to incorporate a “community in residence” aspect to plan with groups and businesses to offer workshop experiences.
Our District Strategic Plan identifies pillars, including Teaching, Learning, and Relevance, the Whole Student, and Communication. Community Engagement developed in partnership with the community includes measurements based on data review, progress monitoring and regular reporting to parents, staff, the school board and the community.
Due to the rural setting of the district, access to resources and summer school has presented a challenge. One aspect of the grant would be to provide transportation to allow all students access to summer school programming.
Tomahawk has the privilege of being located in an area with diverse natural resources and we seek to take advantage of the outdoors to address physical wellness and mental health enrichment.
Teaching staff will collaborate with community partners to address the delivery of classes both on campus and in the community, using the rivers and lakes, parks, school forest and trail systems.
Academic interventions will be implemented using project based learning to increase student engagement as well as build lagging skills. Based on our data, our target populations are students of low socioeconomic status, students receiving special education services, students experiencing behavioral and/or mental health challenges, and students at basic or below basic achievement on assessments. Programming will use evidenced based practices through summer programming to incorporate wellness, engagement, and instruction that enhances and extends learning.
Administration and summer school project coordinators had preliminary discussions regarding the needs, services and opportunities for engagement, enrichment and student growth academically and through overall wellness through the scaling up of the summer school programming and the “Treasures of Tomahawk” concept.
Community partners and services are excited to collaborate and co-plan with schools to increase engagement, awareness and opportunity for students.
Needs for programming have also been gathered through community wrap around services for students, Kinship input, the district strategic planning process and scheduled community conversations.
Demonstration of need for the funding was based on the following data:
Tomahawk has limited structured settings available to youth. Students in home or center-based child care settings don’t often have a focus on academics.
25% of our students in their program are or have been in the primary custody of a grandparent.
45% of our students are below grade level in literacy on our winter assessment.
44% of our middle and high school students are below grade level in math.
Over 50% of our elementary students are below grade-level in math.
Student groups experiencing lagging skills in both areas as evidenced by our state report cards are students of low socioeconomic status (SES) and those who receive special education services.
We have 3.1% chronic absenteeism. Student groups of greatest concern have a higher rate of chronic absenteeism. Our low SES group has a chronic absenteeism rate of 5.7%, and students identified with Special Needs have a chronic absenteeism rate of 4.6%.
Behavior challenges have increased. Elementary school behavioral referrals have increased from 653 prior to COVID to 1,597, which is over double the referrals.
Middle school post-COVID has doubled behavioral referrals with 80 referrals prior to COVID and 256 reported post-COVID.
Middle school students self-reported through S.A.B.E.R.S that over 38% of them are at risk of social or emotional behavior problems with social issues. Feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and despair are of concern for these students.
Academic and behavioral needs are based on state, local and students’ self-identification. A low chronic absenteeism shows our families value attendance during the regular school year.
Learning loss trends occur during summer for students without resources or summer transportation.
Summer learning loss due to summer was tracked with Title I data. Over half our students show learning loss in reading after summer. Most prevalent was in our students with low SES and served through Title I.
Data analyzed over a two-year period showed that it took an average of three months to recover from summer learning loss. Due to no transportation being provided the students we most need in summer school haven’t been able to attend.
School closure compounded the learning loss. Evidence of disengagement were 1) low numbers of logins during synchronous learning; 2) the lack of social interaction during learning; 3) elementary students not having the technology skills or attention to connect with synchronous learning; 4) incomplete homework.
Elementary students had devices, but relied more on paper materials sent home. Provision of support during learning and feedback was limited and delayed. The socialization of students was almost non-existent, they were unable to join a community of learners and limited interactions with peers and family. Basic social skills were limited in sheltered settings. Child Protective Services reported a decline in referrals, indicating children were receiving few supports.
Through the grant funding and summer school programming the district has identified four priority statements:
We believe that we can increase student attendance and opportunity to access quality programming by providing transportation and meals.
We believe that we can increase student connectedness, wellbeing and reduce anxiety and negative behaviors by providing a safe, consistent environment through activities focused on positive interactions in school and the community.
We believe we can increase reading proficiency by offering activities grounded in explicit instruction a high leverage instructional practices.
We believe we can reduce behavioral referrals by providing programming that offers the opportunity to be in a structured, positive environment, takes advantage of our natural resources around our community, and provides instruction and practice in self-regulation and mindfulness activities.
The goals are:
- During the 2023 summer school session, the School District of Tomahawk will increase summer school participation from 15% (2022) to 30%. We will subsequently increase to 40% by the 2024 summer programming.
- Set up and create transportation routes to allow access for all students to summer programming.
- Provide free lunch for all students in attendance at summer programming.
- Develop courses that include both wellness and academic activities
- Create a course around community connections “Treasures of Tomahawk” theme
- Provide project based learning, engaging activities, use of outdoor resources, include community partners
- Culminate in a capstone event, community showcase to build community, student, and family connection through a community event showcasing student projects and learning.
Learn more about ESSER III grant program
For more information about the ESSER III grant program, visit www.dpi.wi.gov/arp/esser-iii.