FWCS elementaries focus of Title I funds
24 Apr 2022 — Journal Gazette
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Mike Moore | The Journal GazetteA Title I event called Elephants, Tigers, & Math OH MY!, in the gymnasium at Haley Elementary School on Thursday.  
Ashley Sloboda

Fort Wayne Community Schools is changing its spending strategy for the $12 million in federal funding it receives to serve children living in high-poverty areas.

The district, which has about 50 schools and almost 30,000 students, decided in its annual review of Title I spending to use the money solely at all of its elementary schools next academic year, spokeswoman Krista Stockman said. The list includes Towles Intermediate School, which serves grades one through eight.

This year, the Title I schools comprise 25 elementary schools, four middle schools and three high schools. Together they serve almost 17,000 students, according to state enrollment data.

The bulk of the Title I allocation has always gone to elementary schools, which outnumber the secondary schools and generally have higher poverty rates, said Kimberly Brooks, the district's Title I director. 

The state determines Title I allocations based on multiple factors, Brooks said, including federal poverty census data.

"Whether we use it at 10 schools or 40 schools, the amount of money does not change," Stockman said by email.

State data show about 14,000 students attend the 33 FWCS schools that will receive Title I funds next year. The seven middle and high schools that currently receive such funding : but won't next year : have about 6,300 students.

When using Title I dollars, Brooks said, FWCS must follow requirements, including serving students in greatest need. This can include high poverty areas and students at risk of failure. Generally, she said, the district has prioritized spending on extra instructional support for students, professional learning for staff and family engagement efforts.

Devoting Title I dollars exclusively to elementary schools will support the district's emphasis on early literacy and math to better prepare students for the future, Brooks said by email.

"We are focusing on literacy at all levels, but we know the best time to teach students to read is at a young age," she said, adding the emphasis will be on kindergarten through third grade.

Superintendent Mark Daniel has talked about FWCS' primary focus needing to be on literacy, especially with students falling behind because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Daniel is also seeking ways to expand enrollment in pre-K, which the state doesn't fund through the school funding formula. FWCS largely depends on federal Title I dollars to provide that early education.

"In the past, we have been limited in using Title I funds to provide high quality, preschool programming to serve students living in Title I attendance areas," Brooks said. "With all of our elementary schools included in Title I, we will be able to serve more preschoolers across our entire district."

The pre-K sites will expand to include Haley and Washington Center elementary schools next year, Brooks said, and the district will grow the program as space is available.

Brooks said FWCS is still determining what next year's plan for Title I funding means for the middle and high schools that are currently supported by the funding : Kekionga, Lakeside, Miami, Portage, North Side, South Side and Wayne.

"Currently," she said, "we do have other funding services, including other federal funds, that could be used to support the secondary schools."

The four middle schools will lose their Title I math interventionists : teachers who work directly with students needing extra help, Brooks said. Nobody will be laid off, however.

"In many cases," Brooks said, "the Title I interventionists will be moved to a math classroom position."


This story is provided free courtesy of The Fort Wayne Newspapers.
"FWCS elementaries focus of Title I funds" Journal Gazette 24 Apr 2022: C1