The Bulletin Board

Council to consider contract to address learning loss among students in nonpublic schools

By: - August 16, 2021 5:09 pm
Students sit at their desks while wearing masks

The Dartmouth-Hitchcock “Coping through COVID-19” series continues Wednesday with a conversation about returning to school. (Getty Images)

New Hampshire students in nonpublic schools could soon benefit from federally funded “learning loss” programs to address any setbacks caused by remote instruction.

Under a contract appearing before the Executive Council Wednesday, the New Hampshire Department of Education would set aside $1.58 million for in-school instruction and summer-school learning loss programs to help students at private or religious schools who have fallen behind academically.

The money is part of the “Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools” portion of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, passed by Congress in 2021, which devoted a set amount of funding for states to spend on nonpublic schools affected by COVID-19.

New Hampshire aims to contract with FACTS Education Solutions, a Nebraska-based company that has already begun hosting four-week summer-school programs for the schools. The contract would pay for those programs retroactively and fund continuing instruction in school. 

“The goal of the summer-school program is that students will have a newfound sense of confidence when they return to school and the classroom environment,” Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut wrote in an explanation letter to the council. 

The money can also be used to help pay for ongoing testing and contact tracing operations at private schools as they reopen in the fall, and can be diverted to hybrid or remote-learning models as well, Edelblut wrote.

For David Thibault, the superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Manchester, the funds could help school administrators in an ongoing battle against learning loss next year, which is already requiring teachers to be nimble in addressing students’ needs.

Schools within the diocese have already submitted specific requests to the Department of Education for what they need. But the real test will come in September, when returning students are evaluated to measure whether they are at their grade level, Thibault said.

Finding the best way to utilize the extra help will be a dynamic student-by-student process, he added. 

“The whole point is: where are the gaps, what’s most important, where are we reprioritizing, and where’s the growth needed,” he said. 

The contract will appear before the council at its Wednesday meeting at Salem High School in Salem.

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel.