STARKVILLE — Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District will use $1.5 million in grant funds to fund intersessions in its modified school calendar over the next three years.
The Learn More Program Grant, administered through the Mississippi Department of Education, will fund teacher and staff pay, as well as operations costs, for its two annual intersessions, which will begin the 2022-23 school year.
SOCSD approved a modified calendar starting next school year, in which classes will begin in late July and end in early June. Though summer break will be shorter, there will be longer fall and spring breaks, making the school year the same amount of total days (180 for students and 187 for teachers).
There will be 13 intersession days in addition to regular instruction days to remediate students who are falling behind in their classes or want enhanced learning opportunities. Those will be split between fall and spring.
Assistant Superintendent Anna Guntharp said SOCSD is looking for 60 of its teachers, as well as other support staff, to work the intersessions. Since it exceeds their contract days, those employees will be paid extra for their work.
Teachers will be paid $35 per hour for intersessions, Guntharp said.
“There’s a lot of planning involved for our teachers around intersessions, and it helps to recruit teachers with those additional hours,” she said. “Teachers are also not tied down to each intersession, and if they only want to do one week, they will not have to do more than what they want.”
The first intersession will be from October 3-12 right before two days of fall break. The next second will be after spring break, from March 20-24, 2023.
As of right now, SOCSD is expecting the only 20 percent of the district’s students to attend the intersessions, which would make the ideal classroom size during these periods 10 to 15 students maximum. The size of the classroom also depends on how many teachers will opt to work during intersessions, which will only be half-days.
“This will be a 60-percent schedule, which is what we are planning around. Of course, that could change because we are still in the process of planning our intersessions,” Guntharp said. “For most of our elementary schools, release will be around (noon). For our secondary schools, it will be around 1 to 1:30, but those times are subject to change.”
The current plans for intersession include using all school buildings in the district for those wanting to attend, but that is dependent on the amount of teachers, bus drivers, and cafeteria staff present. Teachers will be able to use their own classrooms, and students will be familiar with their own buildings.
Student attendance is not mandatory for intersessions. However, for students in need of attention, it will be highly encouraged to the students’ parents, Guntharp said.
Accelerated learning will allow students who are behind in school work or credits to catch up with their peers. It is geared more toward secondary school students such as those at Armstrong Junior High School and those at Starkville High School.
“This is going to be a good opportunity for us to provide real time remediation and acceleration opportunities to students when they need it,” Guntharp said. “Instead of waiting until the end of the year to try to assist students through a summer program, this will allow us to do that throughout the year. This is the smartest use of time, and we aren’t waiting until students get completely behind before we intervene.”
Enhanced learning will offer new learning opportunities for students mostly in kindergarten through seventh grade. SHS students will be more encouraged to take part in job shadow and internship programs offered by community partners, such as Starkville Utilities and other house sponsors.
For those who do attend, there are fun and enticing activities, so it will not be a regular type of school week, per Guntharp.
“Most of our discussion has been around making this engaging for students. We’re looking at having some themes and special activities for students,” Guntharp said. “Even if the students are in that remediation acceleration course, they’re going to be doing some things like special activities and art, music, and P.E. We’re also hoping to bring in some special events, assemblies, things like that to make this different and involve a little fun for our students that are attending intersession.”