As schools finally re-open, teachers are starting to realize the impacts that COVID-19 had on students.
Discussing school-improvement opportunities at last night's Tumwater School District board meeting held at Tumwater Middle School, staff shared the challenges that they encountered this year, especially the impact that school closures had on students' mental, social and academic well-being.
In a presentation, Tumwater Middle School Assistant Principal David Parascand said that some students have difficulties transitioning from online to in-person learning.
He explained, "We see students mimicking younger age level behaviors." Parascand noted that he saw, "eighth-graders oftentimes exhibiting sixth-grade behaviors and seventh-graders exhibiting fifth-grade behaviors."
The assistant principal believed that the best way to address the issue is to provide "‘intense levels of support.” He also remains optimistic that students would be able to catch up as they interact with one another, and regain a sense of normalcy.
Data from Tumwater Middle School also show that a significant number of students are struggling academically. For math, Parascand showed that 70 percent of students are well below the average.
Generally, students who are considered well-below are two grades lower than the standard learning grade. Overall, Parascand reported that for math, 50 sixth-grade students have been identified as well-below. In addition, there are 70 seventh graders and 50 eighth-graders who are well-below.
This issue also affects high school students. During the Tumwater School Board meeting, Student Representative Tallia Kallappa from Black Hills High School said that some students are experiencing knowledge gaps as a result of the school closure, “Some students feel like they are not where they need to be.”
High school students are also struggling with the transition. Kallappa reported that a number of seniors and athletes have struggled to cope with in-person learning, especially in terms of their schedules.
Lack of staff
Aside from helping students to make the necessary adjustments from online to in-person learning, teachers are also struggling to handle their workload. Parascand said that due to budget issues, the school has fewer substitute teachers. At the same time, he said they continue to have a similar enrollment rate as in the pre-COVID period.
The assistant principal believed that the lack of staff makes it difficult for schools to guide and help students in their emotional, mental and academic needs. “The lack of available substitute teachers is definitely something that impacts us. Every single day we’re asking teachers to cover for an unfilled substitute position.”
Despite these challenges, the school staff assured the public that they are doing their best to fill the vacant positions and avoid burnout for teachers. Parascand also encouraged more collaboration to help students overcome the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Monday, November 15 Report this