NEWARK – Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS) announced this week the school system will receive over $2.6 million from the competitive Stronger Connections grant program under Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).
The competitive grant, which spans the next three academic years, provides funding to increase the school system’s capacity to provide students with safe, inclusive and supportive learning environments.
The grant enables the school system to hire five additional positions for the duration of the grant period. The positions will include a certified health education teacher to support WCPS’ integrated Health Literacy Program at Pocomoke Middle and Snow Hill Middle schools; a certified music and movement teacher at Pocomoke Elementary School; two pupil personnel workers will be added to the Office of Student, Family, and Community Connections to increase family engagement and offer case management and wraparound services for students and families; and an early childhood education coach to support the enhancement of early childhood education across the school system through guiding the implementation of play-based learning strategies during instructional centers.
In addition to personnel, the grant provides for additional wraparound services in the form of sensory integration training for school system occupational therapists as well as contracted services for Board Certified Behavior Analysis for students who display extreme behavioral challenges. The grant also targets identified programming inequities in the school system’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program and will allow for the development of a teacher training cohort in the implementation of play-based learning activities during instructional centers.
“We are incredibly proud to have secured this multi-million dollar competitive grant, which will have a direct impact on so many of our students,” Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor said. “While Worcester County is a high performing school system, we are also identified as high-need by the state, and bringing these funds to our students helps us to continue to put programs and staff in place to ensure every student can succeed in school.”
The Stronger Connections competitive grant program was available to school systems identified as “high need” as defined by the following criteria: a high number or percentage of students living in poverty (e.g., at least 40 %); a high student-to-mental health professional ratio; high rates of chronic absenteeism, exclusionary discipline, referrals to the juvenile justice system, bullying/harassment, community and school violence, or substance abuse; or where students recently experienced a natural disaster or traumatic event.