Bryan High will get some extra help this school year under a shift in how the Omaha Public Schools spend their federal money reserved for low-income kids.
The school is expecting about $540,000 in new federal money. With the money, Bryan Principal Robert Aranda has hired a math coach and a literacy coach to work with smaller groups of students on specific trouble spots. He's also hired a couple of math teachers and a science teacher to help lower class sizes and raise test scores.
“It's more eyes on kids,” said Aranda, who also plans to spend some of the money on more teacher training.
The school, along with Bryan Middle School, is receiving the extra money because its neighborhood has gotten poorer. This year, at least 75 percent of the families in Bryan's neighborhood qualify for federal lunch subsidies, an indicator of poverty.
Other OPS secondary schools also will get more federal money, but some elementary schools will get fewer dollars because of the increased poverty in other Omaha neighborhoods.
Federal law requires school districts to give Title I money — federal dollars reserved for disadvantaged students — to schools in neighborhoods where at least three-fourths of the kids come from families that qualify for the federal lunch subsidies. This school year, more of OPS's secondary schools have reached that benchmark, meaning the district must take some of the money it was giving to elementary schools.
Low-income elementary students have long received most of the district's Title I dollars. For an elementary school to get Title I dollars, OPS had required that at least 40 percent of the families in the school's neighborhood qualified for federal lunch subsidies. That threshold was raised to 70 percent for this year.
In high school neighborhoods, OPS had set the threshold at 75 percent, per federal law.
OPS wanted to try to help its low-income students as early as possible, said ReNae Kehrberg, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment. Kids from low-income homes typically do worse on state tests and drop out of school at a higher rate than their more-affluent peers.
This school year, OPS should get about $22 million in Title I dollars, although that number could change.
Schools can use the money for a variety of reasons.
Ponca Elementary, north of Interstate 680, had bought books for students to take home after the school's family nights, said Mindi Grim, Ponca principal.
The school also used its $40,000 on math games, instructional supplies and two part-time paraprofessionals who helped teachers in the classroom.
But Ponca, like some other elementary schools, will no longer have that money to spend.
Grim said she will keep the part-time paraprofessionals by spending the school's general fund dollars on them. The school is also exploring grants to apply for and fundraisers to host to replace the other money, Grim said.
At Boyd Elementary, Principal Elaine Adams spent about three-fourths of the school's $120,000 in Title I money on mobile computer labs last school year. Adams wanted her students to get used to taking tests on computers so when they took state tests online they would be prepared. She, too, is looking for other funds to replace those lost Title I dollars this school year.
OPS Title I schools 2013-14
View OPS Title I schools 2013-14 in a larger map
OPS Title I schools 2012-13
View OPS Title I schools 2012-13 in a larger map