During its July 14 meeting, the Warren County Board of Education voted to allocate $294,593 to enter a six-year textbook adoption with Houghton Mufflin Harcourt for reading/literature.

The school system will utilize $108,000 in county funding and $200,000 in state textbook funds to purchase the materials, which include both paper and online resources.

In 2013, the N.C. General Assembly approved House Bill 44, which called for a transition from funding traditional paper textbooks to funding only digital materials, including textbooks and instructional resources, by 2017.

However, the need for updated paper textbooks was a component of school system budget discussion in preparation for the upcoming school year. 

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Young previously said that after schools were closed in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the move to virtual learning revealed that some reading and math classes did not have paper textbooks.

She added that materials such as updated textbooks are critical to improving the quality of local education and reducing the number of students leaving the Warren County school system for charter schools.

During last week’s meeting, Young estimated it had been some 10 years since the school system last purchased textbooks. She said that purchasing the reading/literature textbooks would ensure that all teachers and students have consistent instructional resources.

WCS Director of Curriculum and Instruction Chelsea Jennings said that a committee that included representatives from all of the district’s schools reviewed proposals from three textbook companies on the state’s textbook adoption list. The process included watching virtual presentations from each company, studying their available online resources and reading hardcopy reviews.

Jennings said that each proposal was impressive, but the committee recommended materials from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for offering consistent K-12 resources, and providing both hardcopy and online textbook and reading materials that can be tailored to the needs of each student. In addition to textbooks, the package will include books/novels for classroom or online use, and a student choice library.

The package also includes resources for teachers to identify students who need additional instruction, determine the best ways to help them, and to compare student achievement from year to year.

Young reported that students will use paper textbooks in the classroom and will be able to download textbooks on their Chromebooks for use at home. 

Jennings said that the textbook committee was impressed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s professional development for teachers.

Young said that having instructional coaches at each school, as requested by teachers, will provide further assistance to local educators. She said that a budget freeze, which included salaries and not filling certain positions left vacant by retirement or resignation, allowed Warren County Schools to save $1 million for critical needs that include instructional coaches.

Before the vote on the textbook adoption, board members raised the question of whether Warren County High School is due to receive state funding designated for textbooks. Young said that the matter could be studied and information provided to the board. However, she noted that any such funding would be a separate matter from the reading/literature textbook adoption, and, that the order should be placed as soon as possible.

With this first step in upgrading textbooks, Warren County Schools hopes that another textbook adoption can be made for the 2021-22 school year.