District Officials Talk the Highs and Lows of the Past Year

By Simon Albaugh – Yemeni American News

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – At the Hamtramck Public Schools State of the District event, officials spoke on the past year, reflecting on the challenges of a global pandemic and the hopes of a once-in-a-generation equitable funding opportunity.

Hosted at the Hamtramck High School Community Center, HPS officials from the district’s Finance, English Language Development, Student Achievement and other departments also spoke on the plans they have for the coming year.

Coming out of the COVID-19 Pandemic, which created difficult situations for everyone involved in education, Hamtramck Public Schools is expected to receive a staggering figure in Federal Aid that the district plans to send to much-needed infrastructure improvements.

“Once again, we received the funding, which is an amazing, amazing opportunity,” said Superintendent Jaleelah Ahmed. “And we’re so grateful for this extra funding. But it’s important to know that even with this extra funding, we are limited to what we can do. We cannot construct a building and we cannot purchase property with these funds. So our goal is to use the funds to renovate the schools with the necessary HVAC, window replacement and other updates that are going to be required.”

Hamtramck Public Schools was still able to purchase two additional buildings using excess funds from the general fund balance. One building, located on Conant Street, is in the works to be used as an early-age learning school, educating grades K-3.

The other building, located on Jos. Campau is still being planned, but the Superintendent says that this will allow the school district to phase-out the use of portable classrooms in the district. By purchasing the new space, the plan is to move the students to the new K-3 building.

Over the past year, Hamtramck Public Schools was able to quickly shift back and forth between online and offline learning. This resulted in continued needs for more innovative student assessment.

“Given that online engagement often led to chronic absenteeism, our concerns were focused on fostering innovation in the classroom,” said Rebekah Brewer, Executive Director of Student Achievement.

HPS became a high-profile example of economic inequity in the pandemic. Since many students didn’t have access to the technology or broadband connection, the district was able to provide a massive campaign of laptop loans and broadband connection hotspots for students throughout the district.

This allowed many students to maintain an education, but this could not keep every student on the same track as they had in the years before the pandemic.

In the coming months, HPS plans to announce the details of a number of new learning initiatives, such as an online-learning component for students, as well as research into the viability of a collegiate academy, offering students more opportunities to learn while they’re graduating from Hamtramck Public Schools.