Montreal Bell, the executive director for Fulton County Schools Bridge to Success plan, said it has been designed to help students recover from learning loss caused by the pandemic. (FCS/YouTube)

The Fulton County School District has started to see improvement in its three-year Bridge to Success Plan intended to help students recover from pandemic learning loss.

Montreal Bell, executive director of the Bridge to Success program, said FCS directed funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and CARES Acts I and II to bring students and teachers back to school and to recover from the pandemic’s effects on learning.

“We tied them all together to try to make sure that we had one cohesive plan that would address learning loss, returning to schools, and positioning students and families to be on a better road to recovery beyond COVID,” she said.

SAFE Center coming to North Springs

Something Bell said North Springs High School will soon have its own Student and Family Engagement (SAFE) Center.

“It will provide students and families and the community as needed with some of the resources that they may need beyond school,” she said.

FCS models this SAFE Center after one that has been established in Banneker High School. Some of the examples of needs it will meet include providing a food and clothing pantry for families in that community. It may provide them with the opportunity to shop on specific days when they can bring groceries home to their family. It also will serve as a parent resource center.

“We work to actively engage our parents and keep them involved in everything that’s going on in our schools. Which is why we are hoping that as we get our SAFE Center going at North Springs that they will begin to tell us what they really need to help them,” Bell said.

Teachers train to improve literacy

Last summer FCS began training teachers and leaders in the district with a literacy program. Everyone should be trained before the funding ends including new hires, Bell said.

All English Language Arts (ELA) and language arts resources are being aligned to the training. Implementation of the strategies being taught for the literacy program has begun.

FCS hired literacy coaches in elementary schools to provide additional instructional and coaching support for teachers to make sure they have everything needed for students to be on track with reading.

Every elementary school also has a professional who works with students on their specific needs in terms of tutoring through a small group learning setting.

Another component of Bridge to Success is its FOCUS Plan, which FCS said is a systematic approach to accelerate student learning through an equitable lens. The plan uses targeted resources such as High Dosage Small Group Tutoring to accelerate student learning and address the specific needs of students. This involves having a single tutor with a student over the school year in math or reading. It can double the amount of learning students typically gain during the year.

Preliminary results from FOCUS include a high participation rate from students during both summers. Bell said they use that program to help get students back on track for learning recovery.

CTAE programs expand

FCS plans to expand some of the program options to its Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) and virtual learning programs. Students in high-needs zones that need additional academic, emotional, family and community support may be assisted.

The CTAE options will expand at Sandy Springs and Ridgeview middle schools, so the programs align with the offerings at North Springs and Riverwood, Bell said.

“The other thing that we’re doing in the middle schools is expanding our computer science and robotics training that we have for our students and offering there,” she said.

The Enhance Experiences initiative, FCS’s cultural Kaleidoscope program, returned the school field trip experience for all students in grades pre-K through 12.

“This is an opportunity where we feel that will at least give students one good for educational field trip experience outside of the district so that they can actually enhance your learning and see it in a more close-up and hands-on way,” Bell said.

Bell said FCS focuses on standards needed at the student’s grade level, using extending learning and small group, high-dosage tutoring programs to fill in the gaps they are missing.

“Some students have rebounded very quickly, but a lot of that is dependent on the support that they have at home, support that they can get at school and just where they are as a learner and how focused and really undistracted and their ability to learn,” Bell said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.