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FCPS offers free online tutoring with federal Covid relief funds

Masked and socially distanced students utilize laptops during Fairfax County Public Schools’ limited return to in-person classes in late fall 2020 (via FCPS/Facebook)

After a year of readjusting to in-person learning, local students now have a new option for getting some additional academic support.

Starting today (Thursday), all Fairfax County Public Schools students have unlimited access to online, on-demand tutoring through Tutor.com, and thanks to an infusion of federal coronavirus relief funds, the services come at no cost to families.

FCPS announced in late March that the tutoring services would become available for the final months of this school year as well as the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years. Superintendent Scott Brabrand called the service “an academic booster shot” that would help students without further straining the school system’s teachers, ABC7 reported.

Founded in 1988 and acquired by The Princeton Review in 2014, Tutor.com has 3,500 tutors who teach math, science, English, and social studies, along with providing preparation for the SATs and other standardized tests, according to its website.

According to FCPS, all of the tutors undergo a “rigorous application process including an extensive background check,” and all sessions are recorded, with transcripts available for review by both teachers and students’ parents or guardians.

Students can access the one-on-one services on a 24/7 basis through FCPS’ Schoology platform, and they can choose to communicate through voice or a text chat box. Access to Tutor.com is automatic, though families can opt out.

The service is being supported by an ESSER III Unfinished Learning Grant, part of the $188.6 million that FCPS received from Congress through the American Rescue Plan Act’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund.

First established by the CARES Act in 2020, the ESSER funds are intended to address the pandemic’s impact on school divisions across the country. FCPS received an initial allocation of $21.7 million through early 2021 and another $272.6 million in ESSER II and III funds.

The Fairfax County School Board devoted 82% of its ESSER III funds to addressing learning losses and other student academic, social and mental health needs. The school system has also been using the money to cover COVID-19 mitigation expenses, staff compensation and technology support.

School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky, who represents Sully District, reported to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a public hearing on Tuesday (April 12) that the ESSER funds allowed FCPS to decrease its funding request for fiscal year 2023 by 2.3%, or $78.5 million, from its approved fiscal year 2022 budget.

“We continue to see the impact of the pandemic in both learning loss and the socio-emotional well-being of our students,” Pekarsky said. “With the help of ESSER funds, we are addressing these needs with school specific action plans.”

She told the Board of Supervisors that FCPS anticipates more than 40,000 students participating in summer school programs this year. The school board approved $12.5 million in funding for the summer programs on March 24.

Photo via FCPS/Facebook

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