Ohio’s rural communities find new solutions to expand student resources
Monday, December 4, 2023
Rural schools in Ohio are finding local solutions to ensure their students have the resources and skills they need to be successful.
Grand Valley High School in Ashtabula County started a Community Learning Center to help support students.
Teacher Jason McConnell, who is also the president of the Grand Valley Education Association, said the center has been a game changer in helping students meet basic needs - so they can focus on learning, and not feel embarrassed about needing help.
But McConnell said he worries about funding drying up and the impact on students if the center closed.
"The services that I see kids use the most," said McConnell, "is food - number one, clothing - number two, and number three - a person to go talk to who can get them in touch with the right people to help them, not only physically but mentally."
According to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, more than 36% of the Ohio's public school students in live small towns or rural areas.
This year Ohio spent more on primary and secondary education than at any other time in state history - totaling around $11 billion, according to data from the Ohio Department of Education.
Emily Boerger - a co-president of the Cory Rawson Education Association - said her county's test scores for kindergarten readiness have been notoriously low for several years.
A recent grant from the American Federation of Teachers helped establish a local preschool program aimed at preparing young children with the skills they need to start school, while expanding childcare options for working parents.
"We also live in a place that's obviously very rural, a lot of removal from city amenities," said Boerger. "And so, we knew that quality child daycare was something that was greatly needed in our area."
Wendi Davis, the other Cory Rawson Education Association co-president, added that thriving rural economies start with educated workers.
"There's so much need in Ohio, we have so many rural communities," said Davis. "And if the federal government is able to supply funds for that, we provide a more inclusive and equalizing environment, so that all students can get what they need."
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden, provide $2 billion for economic development projects across the country, along with hundreds of millions of dollars for expanding access to high-speed internet in rural regions.
Some of the funds are trickling down to school districts.
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