School districts helping students get back on track during pandemic slide

GALVESTON, Texas – The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on the education of students across the country. Now, school districts across the Greater Houston area are laying out their plans to help students get back on track.

Several schools, including Parker Elementary School and Ball High School in Galveston, have already created programs to help students get back on track.

National data shows it could take three to four years to close the gap, but Galveston Independent School District is determined to cut it down to two years.

At Park Elementary School in Galveston, Principal Elizabeth Murphy loves visiting students in the classroom. She said the past year has been an experience.

“But I have to say we have learned from it,” Principal Murphy said.

All students are required to wear a face mask and sit in front of plexiglass. Pre-K through fourth-grade students had to adapt to new changes.

About 481 students are back in the classroom and 23 still are learning from home.

As the pandemic continues to change, the district created a program called R.E.A.C.H to help students who have fallen behind get back on track.

It stands for recovery, engagement, accelerated learning, commitment and hope.

“I’m excited about this program. I think it’s a good way to look at kids individually,” Murphy said.

Through the program, all classes will be capped at 20 students. Each grade level will have an instructional coach and there will be a class reach.

“This is not going to be cheap. It’s a two and half-million-dollar effort for the next two years,” Murphy said.

Down the street at Ball High School, Principal Joseph Pillar is focused on the senior class.

“There are 434 seniors at Ball High, 174 are in jeopardy of not graduating which is double about what it would normally be,” Principal Pillar said.

The school is meeting with parents and students to show them what they need to do to get ahead and letting students complete extra work when they can.

Principal Pillar said they usually have about 11% of the population that is struggling to maintain. The number has increased to 25%. He said students are trying their best.

They are also helping underclassmen who need to get back on track.

“There is a turn we see kids coming back persevering. The state says it takes four to five years to make up the learning difference we are trying to do it in two,” Mr. Pillar said.

Across town at Spring Branch ISD, about 81% of students returned to the classroom in September. The district is offering intensive tutorial and summer school programs.

They are also performing individual assessments on students who are behind.

“This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint you know these kids have had a learning loss even our highest level of achievers has had learning loss so it’s going to take time to bridge those gaps,” Spring Branch ISD Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Blaine said.

Several districts are also offering technology programs for students. Some school leaders say it is important to consider a private tutor if your child is not getting on track.

For younger students, Principal Murphy says reading books with your children will help increase their grade levels.

KPRC 2 has heard from over a dozen districts about its plans for helping students to get back on track.

To see more of their responses and the programs available, click here.