LOW MOOR — Like school divisions around the state, Alleghany Highlands Public Schools is developing and implementing an ALL In Virginia Plan.
ALL In Virginia, announced by Governor Glenn Youngkin on Sept. 7, is a plan to help support students in attending school and in catching up on learning that was disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan also provides support for the Virginia Literacy Act, a law that promotes effective reading instruction. The letters in ALL stand for attendance, literacy, and learning.
Melinda Snead-Johnson from the AHPS leadership team is guiding the school division’s efforts in response to ALL In Virginia. She is working with school and division leaders to develop a budget that focuses on key areas. The school division will receive approximately $1.3 million in special funding from the state to support its efforts.
The state is allocating $418 million in learning loss resources to school divisions and recommends that the money be used for tutoring, Literacy Act implementation, and steps to address chronic absenteeism. Approximately 70 percent of the state money is to be used for high-impact tutoring.
A key component of the ALL In Virginia plan is special tutoring for students in grades 3-8. State-wide data, based on Standards of Learning test scores, show that students in grades 3-8 are still struggling to recover from learning loss.
“We are extremely impressed by our principals and teachers who have worked quickly to develop plans for providing even more help to our students,” said Kim Halterman and Snead-Johnson, leaders of AHPS.
“We know the AHPS staff was already providing lots of support for our students, and it is exciting to see what we may be able to accomplish with the additional funds from the state,” they said. “We are also grateful for individuals in the community who have stepped forward seeking to help students through this new program.”
This fall, Sharon Elementary, Mountain View Elementary, Jeter-Watson Elementary, Callaghan Elementary, and Covington Middle School will begin implementing tutoring plans for students in grades 3-8. Citizens in the community who may wish to assist with tutoring should contact the appropriate principal. To maximize student participation, many tutoring opportunities for AHPS students will be provided during the course of the school day. As a proactive step, the Alleghany Highlands School Board approved several tutors at its Oct. 16 regular meeting.
As part of the tutoring initiative, students in grades 3-8 across the Commonwealth of Virginia will be provided access to two online tutoring programs provided by the state. While information on access for the programs is incomplete at this time, parents should watch for additional information from their child’s school. The programs may be used at home and can be used during the school day as well.
AHPS Supervisor of Customized Learning Cindy Fox is the school division’s champion for student attendance. She is working to ensure parents and students understand the importance of regular school attendance.
“AHPS recognizes that good attendance is essential to academic success. But far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent. Chronic absence is described as missing 10 percent of the school year—or about 18 days— for any reason,” said Fox.
Chronic absenteeism has been an issue across the country as schools attempt to recover from the effects of the pandemic and get students back into the classroom. Federal data from the 2021-2022 school year shows that more than 70 percent of schools saw increases in chronic student absenteeism since the onset of the pandemic. In Virginia, about 27 percent of schools had a chronic absenteeism rate above 25 percent for the 2021-2022 school year, according to a survey conducted by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.
During the 2022-2023 school year, chronic absenteeism in Alleghany Highlands Public Schools ranged from 18 percent at Sharon Elementary School to 39 percent at Alleghany High School.
Poor attendance can influence whether children read proficiently by the end of third grade. When students improve their attendance rates, they improve their academic prospects and chances for graduating.
Principals and other school staff also routinely encourage students to attend school. AHPS emphasizes that it is important for parents to communicate with their children’s school about any attendance challenges they may be having.
“No matter your role in the community, please know that your praise for students attending school regularly can be a big help,” said Halterman and Snead-Johnson. “The school division believes good school attendance promotes both learning and good citizenship habits, including workplace readiness.”
The school division will also continue to support advanced training for teachers on effective reading instruction using ALL In Virginia funds. Training has also been provided to teachers on these techniques using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Fund Relief (ESSER)/pandemic funding, at-risk state funding, and Title I and Title IV federal monies.
A recent blog published by the school division discusses its approach to effective reading instruction, also known as the science of reading, and is accessible at www.ahps.k12.va.us under “Instruction News.”
The Alleghany Highlands Public Schools Division was formed on July 1, 2022, when Alleghany County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center merged. The school division is jointly funded by Alleghany County and the City of Covington. It serves approximately 2,700 students.
AHPS news and events are regularly updated on Facebook at AHPublicSchools and on Instagram at ahpublicschools. Information is also available at www.ahps.k12.va.us.
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