BASEHOR, Kan. – Going to school was different in Kansas City and across the country over the past 15 months amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stay-at-home orders last spring closed school buildings and pushed teachers, staff and students into a virtual environment.
Masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing are now part of the curriculum to help slow the spread of the virus in districts that returned in person in late last fall.
Other neighborhoods, including Kansas City public schools and KCK public schools, remained virtual until 2021.
As the pandemic spread, concern grew that many students, especially those using virtual education, were falling behind.
It also prompted at least one school district in the area, Basehor-Linwood USD 458, to offer summer schooling for the first time.
“We are very aware of our students’ loss of learning and have been able to get a pretty good idea of where our students are and how to start this next school year …” said Deputy Superintendent of Basehor -Linwood, Sherry Reeves. . “With the concern about our students’ current learning loss, I think that’s probably what has driven us to move forward with this. “
Basehor-Linwood considered the idea of adding summer classes in the past, but had only offered credit recovery options to high school students until this summer.
Reeves said 145 elementary school students and about 50 middle and high school students have enrolled in the new program, which began Tuesday and runs three days a week until July 1.
Reeves said about 8% to 10% of Basehor-Linwood students remained virtual throughout the 2020-21 school year, a lower percentage than many surrounding districts.
“We are really excited to be able to organize summer courses to accommodate some of these students in our buildings, because making this reconnection with the buildings and the classroom and working with the teachers has been very important, especially for our students. from kindergarten to 5th year. ” she said.
Significant is the COVID-19 ‘learning loss’, which has led to an increase in summer school enrollments across the city, as districts seek ways to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on education. for academics. But it’s more than just test results.
Districts are also looking at the social and emotional support that students need.
“I think social / emotional concerns are always very, very critical as part of preparing students to learn…” Reeves said. “There is some learning loss, but not substantial. Like I said earlier, we want to make sure that we are connected with our children and that the children are connected to our schools. On top of that there is this type of wellness recording, so all of our classes this summer start with this daily recording to see how things go.
Based on a survey of 24 Kansas City-area school districts, which provided the requested data, more than 55,000 school-aged children are enrolled in summer school in 2021.
This is an increase of almost 41% from last year, when most districts saw a significant drop in summer school enrollment or even canceled summer school altogether.
But it also represents an increase of around 5% over historical averages for summer school enrollment in 2017-2019.
Federal relief money from the CARES Act and the US bailout will be used to help pay for certain costs, including breakfast and lunch for students during summer school.
Other districts also said the increase in federal funding was significant.
Lawrence USD 497 has never been able to offer more than credit recovery due to funding and staffing, according to District Executive Director of Communications Julie Boyle.
She said the COVID-19 relief dollars allowed Lawrence to expand his summer school program to include “our elementary and middle grades for students identified as needing additional reading support, in mathematics and socio-emotional learning “.
Turner’s USD 202 also used federal pandemic relief funds to help close the learning loss gap, enrolling more than twice as many students in summer programs as before the COVID strike -19.
Leavenworth USD 453 added summer school options for middle school students for the first time and also saw a record number of elementary school students enroll for 2021 after a recruitment drive.
“The main driver of this year’s offering is the identifiable loss of in-person teaching time between March 2020 and May 2021,” PR director Jake Potter said via email.
Several other school districts in the region have seen a significant increase in summer courses:
- Blue Springs hosted an average of 3,309 summer school students from 2017 to 2019, but 4,239 students are enrolled this summer;
- Bonner Springs has up to four times the number of elementary school students (241) and up to three times the number of high school students (128) enrolled compared to 2016-19;
- Enrollment in De Soto’s summer courses has tripled this year compared to the previous four years;
- Lee’s Summit R-7 saw an increase of almost 43% and the Park Hill School District reported an increase of almost 28% in summer school registrations for 2021 compared to the 2017-19 average.
- Leavenworth Summer School is “more of a camp model, with opportunities for collaboration and group socialization,” as opposed to a strictly classroom option.
Basehor-Linwood has taken a similar approach, but believes it will help identify areas of teaching and / or students needing special attention next fall.
“We worked with our teachers to be able to provide them with more active learning, so it wasn’t just about repeated seatwork and that sort of thing,” Reeves said. “We do a lot of STEM activities, a lot of outdoor learning, but it’s still very skill-based. We will have a good read of what the students will be like at the end of the summer school.
Many other districts have simply seen enrollments in 2021 revert to historic averages after last summer’s decline, but the common thread is that districts are aware of the challenges presented by COVID-19 learning loss and ready to move forward. ‘ensure that it is a short term aberration and not a long term one. -term problem.
Until we see our students again from next August, there are strangers. Once we get a better understanding of that, there will be some (learning loss), but I don’t think it’s a lot.
We have counselors in our classroom and in each building for math reading, we have a school shrink in each building, we have social workers in each building as well as counselors, and we have very supportive parents.
When you have it all together with very effective teachers, any kind of potential learning loss, we will be able to identify early on and then be able to provide the right resources to our students.
Sherry Reeves, Deputy Superintendent of Basehor-Linwood