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CCSD to use portion of CARES funding for summer camp program

With the latest round of CARES Act money, the Chambers County School District has received a little more than $4.8 million for learning needs.

With some of the money, the CCSD will be increasing teacher salaries during the summer programs it has in place, which have been labeled summer camps instead of summer school.

Teacher salaries will receive roughly a 20 percent increase, so teachers will be making a flat fee of $300 a day during the 19-day summer camp.

“The teachers are tired, and they’ve been through a lot in the past year and a half,” CCSD Superintendent Casey Chambley said at the CCSD monthly board meeting. “It’s tough that I’ve asked them to come back and work, but our kids need it. We’re going to identify those gaps and attack them as best we can. We’re still working on it. We don’t have all we needed, but we’re going to work and make it okay.”

CCSD Board Vice President Jeffery Finch said the district should pay as much as needed to get the best teachers possible to work the summer programs, in order to help CCSD students recover from learning gaps created from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The concern still is, if I had a kid, I would want this kid to take advantage of this. If we’re worried about money, the CARES Act helped with that. I think parents should be encouraged in sending their kids to the summer programs,” Finch said. “We need to get the best teachers we’ve got, in my opinion, no matter how much we have to pay them. These kids have lost a lot. I understand being virtual part of the time and in-person part of the time, but there’s still a lot lost, you see it in everyday life. With the CARES Act fund, you always read how much is not being used. We need to utilize it.”

Chambley informed the board that the district will be making the summer programs as easy for the students and families as possible.

Students that attend the summer camps will be provided with transportation, breakfast and lunch. Alongside the meals and transportation, Chambley said the district just purchased literacy materials that were roughly $36,000.

“We’re spending the money. We’re going to spend it and make sure we get what we need,” Chambley said. “If we looked and saw that we needed to increase, we would. We’re actually above what some systems are doing. I’ve talked with some other superintendents, and everyone else is kind of in the same boat that we’re in, everyone is having a hard time getting a big response for the summer learning programs.”

Each of the 19 days of camp will be six hours. Students will receive not only English, math and reading but science, arts and recess as well.

“It’s going to be fun, but it’s going to be more instruction during that time than anything else,” Chambley said. “It’s not going to be babysitting time, it’s actually going to be about four and a half or five hours worth of instructional time. Our reading coaches are going to lead the programs.”

The camps will be focused on students from first to third grades. The goal for each camp will be to have 14 or fewer students. There will be a couple of sites, one at Eastside in LaFayette, and two in Valley, one at  Huguley Elementary and Fairfax Elementary.

For the high school students, the credit recovery program will be at Inspire Academy. Chambley said there will also be transportation from Valley High School to Inspire Academy. Students will have the opportunity to recover two credits in the two sessions for $80 a session. The $80 will be paid upfront, but if the student recovers the credit, the family will receive a refund.

“We want to open it to all grades. However, to cover the law with the Literacy Act, we have to attack those grades one, two and three first,” Chambley said. “For the high school, anyone that needs to recover a credit will be allowed to do that. They will be allowed space and a spot, but we are going to give preference to seniors. If they’re a senior that needs to recover a credit, we’re going to give them the first shot to do that.”

Chambley said the district is looking into adding a second graduation commencement that would take place in the summer for seniors that recovered the necessary credits during the summer. It would be a county-wide commencement ceremony.

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