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Parent and Community Support needed as we reopen K-12 schools

On March 12 at 11 p.m., Gov. Whitmer held a news conference announcing that all K-12 schools in Michigan would be closed to face-to-face instruction beginning on Monday, March 16. It was first thought that this would last 14 days or so.

Now, six months later we will return to face-to-face instruction. What will be the impact on K-12 education of our shutdown due to COVID-19?

Educational researchers have often talked about the “summer slide”, a time when students are on summer vacation, where students lose a portion of what they learned the previous year. In a normal year researchers predict students lose 20% of their school year gains in reading and 27% in mathematics. This amount has varied among studies. Currently, some researchers are predicting that students returning in fall 2020 will have lost 70% of previous year learning gains in reading and 50% of gains in mathematics. A bright spot is that some research shows that those that lose the most during the “summer slide,” tend to gain the most when back in school.

Lessons have been learned from students that were out of school for an extended period of time due to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Students returning to school after the long layoff had difficulty concentrating. They also displayed symptoms associated with depression during the long layoff and when they initially returned to school. With the COVID-19 shelter in place situation it is also believed that some students will have faced a feeling of isolation along with increased anxiety about the virus and their future. Families that suffered economically also struggled with food insecurity, families didn’t have the resources to secure regular meals. It is expected students returning to this fall will face all these challenges.

What our education teams have learned during this COVID-19 shutdown to face-to-face learning will only enhance our student’s future education experience. Our teams have engaged both parents and students through this remote process, learning from each the best ways to engage students through remote instruction. Educators have quickly moved up the learning curve in discovering new technology platforms/resources, testing each on students, and adopting those most effective. We have learned that blended learning, a combination of virtual and face-to-face, is more effective than exclusively virtual for K-12 students. Our education teams continue to learn, adapt, innovate, and implement, then start the whole process over again to improve the educational experience for our students.

On Tuesday, Sept. 8, we will return to face-to-face instruction in all our schools. The American Society of Pediatricians have noted “families rely on schools to provide child care; a safe, stimulating space for children to learn; opportunities for socialization; and access to school-based metal, physical, and nutritional health services.” They endorse returning to face-to-face education in our K-12 schools to support the wellbeing of our youth.

As we return to school we ask our families and communities for patience, understanding, and support. We start our school year with new protocols for our students to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, these will take time to learn and get comfortable with. Be sure of one fact, our education team is dedicated to create a dynamic educational environment where the focus is on exploration, discovery, and creative problem solving, which is what our students and parents want and need.

Dr. Steve Patchin is Superintendent of Hancock Public Schools. Programs he has contributed to creating include Mind Trekkers and CareerFEST, helping students explore their talents and associated careers in STEM. His research has focused on increasing development of self-efficacy in individual students.

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