By Dr. Grenita Lathan, SPS Superintendent
The team of educators and support staff at Springfield Public Schools is committed to “Keep on Growing” throughout the 2021-2022 school year.
At no time in my 30 years in education have our students, staff and families had to grow more to adapt to the challenges we face together. Last year was difficult for everyone, yet our schools and community took the appropriate actions to keep each other safe, healthy and learning.
As we plan for growth this year, we want each student to know they have a place in our “garden” of learning. We provide an optimal space for growth by removing barriers to academic, social and emotional well-being. This can only be achieved with support from a compassionate, giving community like Springfield. After all, every individual has a vested interest in the growth and development of our future workforce and community leaders.
Removing barriers to growth is what equity is all about. On August 23, thousands more high school and choice magnet students will have access for the first time to riding the bus. A safe, reliable ride to school can make the difference in attendance and academic achievement. To help families transition to the new start and end times that make transportation expansion possible, SPS has also partnered to expand before- and after-school programming through SHINE with targeted academic intervention to help close pandemic-related gaps in learning.
Additional support for students and families this year includes increased staffing for reading and math interventions, funding for mobile hotspots, 69,000 hours of tutoring by certified SPS staff, and the establishment of an SPS University to help families navigate a host of school- and community-related issues. Our partners will be crucial to each of these initiatives.
We know that students cannot achieve their full potential when they are hungry, tired, lonely and/or scared. Once again, as schools are called upon to meet families where they are, our partners are responding to help with onsite mobile health units, mobile clothing closets, a new behavioral health day treatment program, and social workers in all five high school feeder patterns.
Finally, SPS is transforming the physical environments where many of our students grow. Because voters approved Proposition S in April, 2019, SPS will open new elementary schools for Williams and Boyd this week. These state-of-the-art facilities provide dedicated space for early childhood education and resolve long-term accessibility challenges. Progress also continues on Hillcrest High School, Jarrett Middle School and York Elementary.
I moved to Springfield earlier this summer. In my short time here, I have been impressed by the heart of this vibrant community and the amazing partners, including United Way of the Ozarks and Foundation for Springfield Public Schools, who surround our district to ensure we find solutions to the unmet needs of our 23,500 students. To each of you, I share my heartfelt gratitude. I’m looking forward to growing deep roots in my new community and to working alongside each of you to cultivate the garden we call home.