Oregon: The Summer School Budget Is the Largest It’s Ever Been, But There Aren’t Enough Teachers

According to interviews and state data, school districts in Oregon may struggle to spend millions of funds set aside to expand summer school and assist thousands of children re-enter the educational system.

As a result of increased state and federal funding, schools in the state are able to offer more summer school programs than ever before. District officials, on the other hand, believe they may be constrained in what they can provide pupils as a result of the ongoing teacher shortages.

Last year, Oregon schools spent just a quarter of the $1 billion the federal government gave for summer school, despite receiving an additional half of a million dollars from the state.

Poor scheduling, staffing challenges and continued worries about in-person training were among the reasons given by school authorities to the Capital Chronicle.

Summer school programs are once again at an all-time high thanks to a record amount of funding. The Capital Chronicle contacted dozens school superintendents around the state to find out what they intended to give children this summer and if they were still constrained by last year’s restrictions.

Portland Public Schools and Salem-Keizer School District officials said they were organizing some of the most ambitious summer activities ever..

Despite instructors’ best attempts to keep pupils completely engaged online, they have discovered that students at all levels are falling behind in their education.

As a public relations officer for Portland Public Schools, Ryan Vandehey explains, “The reality is that we’re trying to address 18 months of kids learning at home.”

They planned to hold job fairs and recruit students as summer staff in several areas. No arrangements for summer school were made by the leaders of several of the smaller districts.

Last year, legislators in Oregon allocated $205 million for summer programming to aid children who had missed a year and a half of school due to their online education. Districts have never received that much money for summer school before. The U.S. Department of Education reports that the federal government has set aside $200 million over the next decade to remediate learning losses caused by pandemics. Summer school was recommended as a good use of those funds by the Oregon Department of Education.

Summer school only received $4 million of the $200 million in federal funding, according to figures from the California Department of Education. According to Mike Wiltfong, the Education Department’s director of school finance, that amount is probably too low because of the way schools classify spending.

According to Wiltfong, the issue boils down to how the resources were categorized for accounting reasons. According to the Department of Education’s financial reporting guidelines, “they might have put that under ‘staff’ instead of ‘summer school,’” if they had paid instructors to run a program.

And hardly half of the $200 million allocated by the state for summer school last year was used. The Oregon Legislature didn’t convene until the end of June, so state cash wasn’t accessible to schools until far into the summer, when activities were well started, according to district officials.

According to state statistics, hundreds of community activities and 161 of the state’s 219 school and education service districts took advantage of the increased state funding, as reported by the state Education Department.

As contrast to the 13,000 students who would be participating in summer 2020 activities last year, more than 100,000 students participated in programs in 2017.

Senate President Peter Courtney of Salem and State Senator Michael Dembrow of Portland convinced legislators to roll over $100 million in unused funds and add $50 million in new funds this year, bringing the total cost of summer school to $150 million.

Schools are expected to do better this year, and Dembrow believes it’s critical that the work be done properly over the summer and exploited to its maximum potential.

The Oregon Association of Education Service Districts, a partnership comprised of the state’s 19 education service districts, will distribute the $150 million to the state’s schools and education service districts and community organizations.

340 students are served by the North Marion School District, which is located halfway between Portland and Salem. Superintendent Ginger Redlinger wrote in an email that “our challenges are similar to other districts: teachers and support staff are burned up out as most districts have been short staffed all year.”

There is a lack of instructors that can teach in multiple grade levels and topics within Redlinger’s district.

The federal Migrant Education Program will pay for summer school programs for elementary-aged kids in the district, as well as programs for high school seniors who are on pace to graduate. It’s not possible for Redlinger to utilize the additional funds unless she can locate employees.

Staffing issues will have to be worked out before summer programming can begin in smaller districts such as Douglas County, Paisley, Klamath County, and Harrisburg in the state of Oregon. In an email to parents, Harrisburg Superintendent Bryan Starr said that “the depth of the program offered will depend on how many instructors we can convince to remain on for summer work.”

District officials in Klamath County, Oregon, said they are still looking for summer teachers despite “few persons who are interested” in doing so, according to Superintendent Glen Szymoniak.

The Reynolds School District in east Multnomah County will conduct a job fair this weekend to hire summer school personnel, according to Steve Padilla, assistant director of public relations. District authorities are trying to figure out how many existing staff are interested in teaching over the summer.

The “stress of being a teacher in recent years, especially covid,” he claimed, has caused many to want to take time off.

In response to parents’ requests, Padilla has teamed up with a number of neighborhood groups to provide seminars and camps this summer.

High school students may be hired as teachers or aides in order to alleviate staff shortages in certain school systems.

As part of a career class, Hillsboro Public Schools will pay student interns from the district’s Career and Technical Education program to assist teach pupils skills like graphic design and robotics

Salem-summer Keizer’s programs director said they will also pay high school students to work at camps and workshops for primary school pupils…. According to her, the high school students have “a grounding in the arts and utilize their technical talents to encourage the younger generations.” she stated

In Umatilla, after school director Stephanie Williams-Strege noted that most personnel who worked with summer programming in 2021 have shown an interest in returning to teach this summer, including high school seniors they recruited to help out. This year, Williams-Strege said that they will be looking for high school students.

This year, there will be no summer school in the Fossil School District in north-central Oregon, which has a student body of slightly over 1,300. Superintendent Jim Smith said that it was unnecessary since all of the district’s high school students are on pace to graduate on time..

Superintendent Earl Pettit said district officials in the Cove School District east of La Grande, where one school facility serves around 290 children, learned a vital lesson last year.

If children don’t want to join and have other activities to engage in throughout the summer, the best summer programs won’t function, he said in an email.

Student enthusiasm was low in the district’s summer activities last year, he added.

“Perhaps in a suburban or urban atmosphere such programs would be more well-received,” He agreed.

For high school students who need credits to graduate this summer, the district will only offer online programs.

It’s expected that schools in Salem-Keizer will provide a wide range of activities for children ranging from kindergarteners through high schoolers, as well as camps for those interested in the fine arts.

Hillsboro School District has traditionally only provided credit-bearing summer courses. According to Travis Reiman, assistant superintendent of academic services, the district would employ more state and federal funds to provide children with enrichment programs in math, reading, and language development.

Schools in Portland, Oregon, will spend $9 million in federal cash and $8 million in state summer learning funds to sponsor activities.

During the summer of 2013, Vandehey says, “we made a significant effort to have an extensive set of alternatives, and this year we have a tremendous suite of extracurriculars with the added funds.”

Dembrow and Courtney regard summer school financing as a step toward year-round education. There will be no letup in their efforts to get millions in funds for summer school.

“In the end, it’s the beginning of really talking about a full year of school,” Courtney said in February.

Portland’s school board is considering how to continue summer programs “for at least the next few years, if not indefinitely,” according to Vandehey. Vanderhay said that participation in credit recovery programs and enrichment workshops and camps was strong last year and is projected to be the same this year. Vanderhay stated.

A lot of people liked it. Some of the programs had waiting lists last year, he added.

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