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Crook County School District is hosting two listening sessions early next week to find out what the community values most in school improvement

PHOTO COURTESY OF CROOK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT
 - Kindergarteners Piper Watson (left) and Keyton Walker complete some work during the school day. The listening sessions planned for next week are intended to gather public input on how to improve schools from kindergarten through high school.

The Crook County School District is again reaching out to learn what types of improvements the community would like to see in its schools.

Local residents are invited to attend one of two community input sessions the district is hosting Monday evening. The first session is planned for 4 to 5 p.m,. and the second will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Both sessions will take place in the Barnes Butte Elementary library. Refreshments will be provided.

Local administrators want to hear from everyone, including students and families of color; students with disabilities; emerging bilingual students; students navigating poverty, homelessness, and foster care; and other students who have historically experienced disparities.

The sessions are designed to help develop a plan for Student Success Act funding. Signed into law in May of 2019, the legislation will invest approximately $2 billion for early learning and K-12 education through a noncompetitive grant.

"The five areas of input that the Student Success Act is looking at is reducing academic disparities between student groups; meeting students' mental and behavioral health needs; providing access to various academic courses; allowing teachers and staff sufficient time to collaborate, review data and develop strategies to help students stay on track to graduate; and establishing and strengthening partnerships," said Joel Hoff, the district's director of school improvement.

The law requires school districts to meaningfully engage stakeholders to determine the best investments for students in their local community, a process that CCSD began last school year with a round of surveys targeting different groups.

Hoff notes that the district conducted a student survey last winter, a parent survey the following spring, and an employee survey this fall.

"The state is really pushing to make sure that we are hearing from our stakeholders on what they prioritize and how they see our schools," he said. "The listening sessions are just one other aspect of that where we are reaching out to our stakeholders to get their input on how we can improve our schools."

Though the school district is following state direction when it comes to stakeholder outreach, educators have a fair degree of latitude when it comes to not only the outreach efforts, but school improvement strategies. Hoff points out that there are four main areas that the state allows the district to invest in – class size, well-rounded education, instructional time, and student health and safety.

"Those are pretty broad areas," he remarked. "There is a lot of room in there for different approaches."

The school district is planning to continue the input-gathering phase of the Student Success Act process until November, after which they will move forward on drafting a plan to submit to the Oregon Department of Education for approval. That plan will likely be published during the early winter, and funding is expected to be available by next school year.

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The Crook County School District will host its community input sessions from 4-5 p.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21 in the Barnes Butte Elementary library. Refreshments will be provided.


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