School board boosts services for low-income students

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The Wilson County Board of Education took steps Monday to make sure poverty-stricken children do not fall through the cracks.

The board reaffirmed Title 1 funding for schools, guaranteed free and reduced lunches for eligible students, joined a program to provide internet hot spots for students without access and planned to provide more pre-kindergarten classes for more families.

Some 15 elementary school and middle schools are eligible to receive Title 1 funding in the 2018-19 school year, but it’s possible that three more schools could be added to that list for the 2019-20 school year based on preliminary data.

The school board voted unanimously Monday to use 2016-17 data to assess Title 1 eligibility.

“The 2019-20 school year is the last time we can use these data points,” explained Cheryl Wilson, associate superintendent of Wilson County Schools. “Using the same data points provide stability in the planning process for the schools, school leaders and families.”

Community Eligibility Provision data and Eligible Schools Summary Report data are used to calculate poverty status in schools. Schools with 75% or more children from poverty-level families must be served as Title 1 schools. In Wilson County, schools with 40% or more students from poor families are eligible to use Title I funds for schoolwide programs that serve all children at the school.

Of the 10,749 students currently enrolled in Wilson County Schools, 4,563, or 42.45% of students, have been identified as coming from poor families. About 67.92 percent of them claim free meals.

“The more schools you have in Title I, the pot is going to get smaller and smaller per school,” Wilson said. “Wilson County still gets the same number of dollars unless enrollment changes.”

Wilson said the students at all of these Title 1 schools get free lunch and free breakfast.

“None of them will have to pay because they are CEP (Community Eligibility Provision),” Wilson said. CEP is a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that allows schools in low-income area to provide free lunch and breakfast to all students.

Wilson said WCS would be sending out forms to families in the coming months to get a updated picture of who needs assistance.

“We are just trying to see if there are some other families out there who need support that haven’t completed their paperwork for government assistance,” Wilson said. “I believe there are.”

Wilson Board of Education Chairwoman Christine Fitch said Wilson County Schools now has the opportunity to join school districts benefiting from Sprint’s 1Million Project Foundation.

“We have had discussions in the past about the need for connectivity of our students once they leave schools. We provide them with Chromebooks currently and they have the access at school, but then when they leave and go home, some do not have access to be able to do assignments or whatever is necessary.” Fitch said “Sprint has launched the 1Million Project Foundation in August 2017 and it had a mission to help one million high school students achieve their full potential by ensuring that they have connectivity that they need at home to succeed in schools to address the homework gap due to the lack of availability of internet service at home.”

Fitch said by the end of 2018-19 school year, Sprint will have provided internet access and devices to more than 250,000 students at 1,700 schools and 160 school districts in 33 states.

“Wilson County now has the opportunity to be a part of this program and Sprint will be providing to our high school students mobile hot spots for homework usage,” Fitch said. “That’s huge.”

Fitch said the district would be surveying eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th graders to ascertain who will be in need of a hot spot that will allow them to connect at home.

“These are filtered. Just as their laptops have filters, these hot spots will have filters,” Fitch said.

Fitch said Wilson County has applied through the Wilson County Partnership for Children for a North Carolina Prekindergarten site.

“The intent is to add one certified class of 18 students with certified teacher and teacher assistant if this site is approved,” Fitch said.
The Department of Public Instruction indicates that there are currently 400-plus students in Wilson County who would qualify for pre-K who are not being served.

“So we know that there is a need to have our students ready when they enter school and the goal is to open an additional site and class each year,” Fitch said. “This would help to bring some of our children up to readiness level when it’s time for them to enter school at the kindergarten level.”

In other business, the board approved 25 revised and draft policies on second readings. Those included including policies on alternative learning programs/schools, behavior standards for transfer students, injury and loss prevention, release of students from school, communicable diseases, child abuse reports and investigations, student behavior policies, school plan for management of student behavior, fair and consistent discipline administration, integrity and civility, disruptive behavior, gang-related activity, theft, trespass and damage to property, assaults, threats, and harassment, weapons, bomb threats, terrorist threats and clear threats to safety, criminal behavior, school-level investigations, student discipline records, prohibition of drugs and alcohol, smoking and tobacco products, collections and solicitations, staff ethics and responsibilities, school administrator contracts, absences due to inclement weather, membership in professional organizations.

The board also approved a contract for $99,843 with Moye Fence Co. to replace mulch on playgrounds at 14 schools.