SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Thousands of local students went back to school this week but school districts are now faced with the immense challenge of helping children who fell behind during the pandemic. Two districts told ABC 10News that they'll have a better idea of the learning loss now that many kids and teachers are face-to-face again.
This week, about half of the 100,000 students at San Diego Unified School District returned to their campuses that have been retrofitted with COVID-19 safety measures.
"It's an exciting time and it's an anxious time," said San Diego Unified School District Board President Richard Barrera who added, "We know that just having students come back is not the end of the challenge because of the difficulty and trauma that students have experienced over the last year."
Barrera said that teachers will soon understand how much academic, social, and emotional support their students will need to move forward. He added that elementary students, on average, have fallen a bit behind in math.
"We have a percentage of students that are failing every class," Barrera said. He told ABC 10News that it's about 5% to 10% of students.
Barrera added that the district believes that about 90% of seniors will graduate this year, which is the same rate as previous years, but it will require a lot of extra education.
"We don't think that we've got that many students that need to do a repeat year. In fact, we generally think it's not a good idea," Barrera stated. "What we talk about is acceleration."
Federal stimulus aid will allow the district to hold an expanded summer school program for the next two years. Additional social services will be provided during the regular school year.
"Once kids come back, we'll have the opportunity to assess their specific needs and also provide through South Bay community services some of those counseling services that we know that a lot of our children will need," said Chula Vista Elementary School District Assistant Superintendent Dr. Matthew Tessier. Some of the district's 30,000 students also returned to their classrooms part-time, this week.
He said that it's too soon to know what learning loss students have suffered, but they'll try to avoid holding students back for a repeat year.
"For the most, part the research is telling us that retention is not really the direction that we want to go," Tessier added.
Dr. Tessier added that a robust education plan is in place and the school environments have been arranged with personal protective updates like desks that are spaced six feet apart with plexiglass barriers.
"We're ready to safely educate kids," he said.