School district prepares for federal grant ending

By this time next year, the $5.6 million in federal funds for the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant will run out for the Marshalltown Community School District.

The next challenge will be dealing with life without those funds, which have provided extra staff, security cameras and curriculum to help break down learning barriers for at-risk students. Matt Tullis, director of equity with the district, is the local grant leader.

Money from the five-year grant resulted in the installation of security cameras at Marshalltown High School and Miller Middle School. It also allowed for the hiring of a learning support specialist in each school.

These staff members visit homes of at-risk students, try to get students to school on time and perform a wide range of jobs to break down learning barriers and monitor progress. Tullis said the vital work of the learning support specialists will be missed.

“This is very, very tough one (to lose),” Tullis said.

Tullis said the grant has been so effective they are concerned about not having these staff members and funds to help after this year.

“We know that our needs to support students with barriers to learning will remain,” he said.

According to updated survey results, the trends show students have felt safer in Marshalltown schools in the past few years since the grant was implemented.

“We see some very positive trends of work that’s being done,” Tullis said.

Tullis said there will also be a challenge of maintaining and updating the security cameras in the future since the grant funding will be gone.

Tullis said this specific federal grant program is going away, so the district can’t reapply for it.

Superintendent Marvin Wade said the district will keep looking into applying for other sources of grant funding to try to keep some of these programs going.