Hudson Valley school districts engaging with students, enhance academic support following COVID-19 impact
Hudson Valley schools are engaging with students and enhancing academic support three years after the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted them.
It was tough for some kids who learned both in class and remotely.
"The hybrid, when it was half remote-half learning, it set me back a little bit. It was just difficult," recalled student Madison Vazquez.
Parents were laden with pandemic pressures.
"Parents are not educators, so they totally had to become the teacher, and parents that work, and parents where English is not their first language," said parent Andrea Vazquez.
Both parents and teachers realized that there were some setbacks of learning fully remote.
"Online, it's just like, if you don't do it, you don't do it, nobody is going to know, and I was pretty young, so it was frustrating to me," recalled student Julianna Colon.
They were not alone in the tough situation. In fact, federal data shows New York's student performance took a deep dive in 2022, particularly for fourth graders. From reading to math, it was easy to see this and feel trapped in the shadow of COVID-19. School leaders, however, say catching up is not key, rather it is reigniting a student's love of learning.
"Learning should be relevant. Learning should be engaging," said Superintendent of White Plains City School District, Dr. Joseph Ricca. He said educators are focusing on addressing students where they are right now. It is also a process that is being echoed across the board.
"To parents, I would say, 'Look at your children. Do they seem happy? Are they thriving? Are they making progress?' It's not going to happen overnight, but if we work at this thoughtfully, we're going to bring kids through feeling good about themselves and they'll eventually catch up," said Harrison Schools Superintendent, Dr. Louis Wool.
That is why many Hudson Valley districts enhanced academic support outside of school, like expanded summer programs. Schools say they are already seeing a difference.
"What we're seeing right now, having reviewed just the mid-year point, is we're seeing tremendous academic growth, that doesn't mean that every student is on grade level, but it does show that every student is moving forward," Ricca said.
The strategy is also fueling children with much-needed confidence.
"I'm improving a lot. Before I got a D in Math and now I'm getting Cs, Bs, and As," Madison Vazquez said.
The American Rescue Plan Act provides crucial funds for districts to address learning loss through expanding summer programs and resources, like technology and personal protective equipment. However, that money will run out in 2024 and many local schools are now working out ways to balance their budgets.