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The district will attempt to gather thorough community input on how to spend $5.2 million

At a Monday meeting, the Lake Oswego School Board held its first discussion about how to use the influx of funds available to Oregon school districts thanks to the passage of the Student Success Act.

Lawmakers voted in May to raise new tax dollars to boost the amount of money flowing toward Oregon's public schools by $1 billion every year. It's a major effort to increase academic achievement, improve students' mental health, boost high school graduation rates and improve Oregon kids' long-term prospects.

As part of the Student Success Act, the Student Investment Account was created to provide close to $500 million in non-competitive grant money for all Oregon school districts. The Lake Oswego School District will be eligible for about $5.2 million dollars available to be used in the 2020-21 school year.

At the Sept. 9 meeting, board members discussed what the grant application process will look like. "It's very exciting, but there are a lot of parts to this that are important for us to all understand," Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Schiele told the board. "The most important part is getting input from our stakeholders. We're then writing a plan, applying for the money and putting that plan into action."

Schiele explained that there are four categories that funds in the Student Investment Account can be used to address: class size, providing a well-rounded education, increasing instructional time and students' health and safety.

"The biggest part of all of this is determining what our local needs are, and (focusing on) community engagement," said Schiele. "(We want to identify) what is important to us as a community and what is going to help move us to the next level."

There are five areas for input that the district needs to collect from community members, and Schiele emphasized the need to reach out to families who have yet to provide feedback to the district in previous surveys.

"The first area is academic disparities — identify anything that people see as a reason we might have those gaps," she said. "We have to hear from all parents from all walks of life."

The second area for community input concerns meeting students' mental and behavioral health needs. "We'll need direct input about how we're doing in that area and areas of improvement," Schiele said. "We have a lot of data, but this is going to be more specific and more targeted to people we haven't heard from before."

The third area is about student access to academic courses. "We want to survey students about what they're interested in, and what they'd like to see more of," said Schiele, adding that they'd also talk with instructors about what they'd like to be teaching.

The fourth area focuses on district's aptitude for giving teachers and staff sufficient time to collaborate with each other, review data on students' grades and develop strategies to ensure that at-risk students stay on track to graduate.

The fifth and final area is establishing and strengthening partnerships. "That could be not only with community members and parents but also with businesses in our area," Schiele explained.

She said that this is the first discussion of an intense but relatively quick process of determining what the community wants the additional $5.2 million used for. The kickoff for community engagement will be Sept. 23 at the district-wide School Accountability Committee meeting (7 p.m. at Lake Oswego High School), at which point the online survey will go live. "We're also going to be doing Facebook Live during that time so people will be able to ask questions," said Schiele.

From Sept. 24 to Oct. 25 there will be a slew of PTO meetings, back to school nights, a Student Services Parent Advisory Committee meeting and more, at which the district will solicit community input. District administrators and board members will also be making calls and home visits to ensure that every voice in the district is heard. "We're looking forward to really making connections with people we have not heard from in the past," said Schiele.

The month of November will involve taking all of the input and creating a first draft of a Continuous Improvement Plan, a required document under the Student Success Act. That plan will be disseminated into the community, and a second round of meetings and online surveys will be held to get feedback.

On Dec. 4, Schiele will present the district's Continuous Improvement Plan to the school board, and it will be submitted to the state level on Dec. 6.

"We'll start working on the grant application immediately after that," Schiele told the board. "We'll come to you with the first draft of that in February and the second draft in April, before we turn it in and get approved and receive our money for the next school year."

Student school board representative Eli Counce said he's ready to start the process. "I for one am excited to be a part of the community engagement, especially on the student level," he said.

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