Loudoun’s School Board may earmark federal Title I money for two secondary schools, which would be the first in the county.
Title I schools receive more federal dollars because they enroll high levels of students from low-income families. Six Loudoun schools now carry the Title I designation, and they are all elementary schools in Sterling. Soon, Sterling Middle School and Park View High School, also in Sterling, may be added to that list.
Evonne DeNome, supervisor of the school system’s federal programs, told School Board members Tuesday that she is recommending they designate Park View and Sterling Middle as Title I schools in an effort to funnel more federal dollars their way.
The population of poor students at both those schools has spiked in recent years. The percentage of students who qualify for the federal free and reduced-meal program at Park View was 53 percent four years ago, and is up to 65 percent. At Sterling Middle School, the rate has jumped from 57.7 percent four years ago, to 70 percent this year.
To qualify for free lunches, a family of four must make no more than $31,980 annually. To qualify for reduced-price meals, that same family can make an annual salary no more than $45,510. That’s quite a contrast from Loudoun County’s median household income of $115,574.
If the School Board designates Park View and Sterling Middle as Title I schools before their free-and-reduced-meal rate climbs to 75 percent, then the school system will have more flexibility in how it spends the federal dollars, according to DeNome.
If they wait, federal regulations require the money only be spent on those low-income students instead of benefiting the entire school—plus it requires loads of additional paperwork to track how the money is spent within a school, she said. “It would be nice to have the flexibility to target those Title I funds to support all students in Sterling Middle School and Park View High School as opposed to a small number.”
Harping back to a debate during last year’s Leesburg area attendance boundary changes, board member Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin) asked if the board should consider redrawing boundaries to boost the number of low-income students at some schools, in hopes of qualifying for more federal Title I dollars.
“Should we look at boundary changes to disperse the ELL (English Language Learner) students into Ashburn and Sterling,” he asked.
It doesn’t quite work like that, DeNome replied.
This fiscal year, the school system received $1.9 million in Title I funding, a figure based on the division’s total number of students who qualify to receive free and reduced-price meals. This year, that is 13,529 students, or 17 percent of enrolled students.
Adding two more Title I schools will not take away money from the six elementary schools already in the program because, as of this year, the school system receives an additional $300,000 in Title I funds. “Park View and Sterling Middle will share that $300,000 increase,” DeNome said.
Title I money is used to provide extra support, both in and out of the classroom. It pays for additional teaching positions, a homeless specialist and liaison, instructional materials, family and community activities and events, and professional development for teachers and administrators.
The School Board is scheduled to vote June 27 on whether to include Park View and Sterling Middle in its application for Title I funding.