For many Houston-area school districts, summer school for the 2020-21 school year is an opportunity to get students caught up on the learning they lost during the pandemic.
This comes following the results of the 2021 STAAR test, which showed more students across the state are failing to meet grade-level standards.
Houston ISD reported that 42 percent of its students failed one or more classes in the first grading period this past school year.
President of the Houston Federation of Teachers, Jackie Anderson, talked to several HISD educators who said the district's summer school program, which was both in-person and online, was not enough to help close the learning gap.
"They are very disappointed with summer school this year," Anderson said. "It remained hybrid, which was an epic failure during the school year. Summer school did not go as anticipated, and there was low attendance [which] saddens me because many students who needed summer school didn't get it for the same reasons they fell behind during the school year."
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HISD also added an additional 15 days to its upcoming school calendar to try to accommodate the loss of learning. Anderson said she hopes that will be enough to get students back on track.
"Now, how long will it take to catch students up? It depends a lot on the students," Anderson said. "It depends a lot on the support they get from their parents [and] the school. Students, I think, will be coming back willing and ready to learn. And if they are willing and ready, then they will learn [and] they can get caught up."
Houston ISD did not respond to our request for comment on Friday.
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Elsewhere, a spokesperson with Katy ISD told ABC13 there were roughly the same amount of students that returned to summer school this year compared to last year. However, all of the students are trying to recover credit for their classes.
The district board of trustees also outlined in a monthly board meeting what was needed to address the loss of learning and where the funding needs to be funneled to help reopen schools safely.
"Proposed activities include:
I. Additional intervention teachers, paraprofessionals and tutors
Ii. Expanding summer school opportunities
Iii. Before and after school tutorials, including transportation
Iv. Reduce class sizes in targeted content areas
V. Instructional materials, technology and software
Vi. Additional staff to facilitate the intervention process
Vii. Campus planning and collaboration opportunities"
Houston doctor weighs in on CDC classroom guidance for next fall
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for how schools can safely bring students back into the classroom. Experts say those who are vaccinated do not have to wear a mask indoors.
Dr. Annamaria Macaluso Davidson from Memorial Hermann Health System said if parents, students and school staff continue to do what works - following CDC guidance, healthy hand washing and wearing masks when necessary - students can return to in-person learning safely.
"It does provide a great framework, regardless of kind of what's happening with a particular variant or not, and it can also be applied just beyond COVID," Davidson said. "It's helping to prevent spread of infectious diseases, so even common things like strep throat, flu, other just different viruses we see during the school year kind of picking up."
The CDC still recommends for schools to space students at least three feet apart, which may be challenging for some school districts with large class sizes.
"Still, a lot of involvement with the school nurses and screening those kids and sending them home or recommending that they get evaluated by their healthcare provider," Davidson said. "The benefit of testing, which we got so many test available and great access to them as well. The benefit of vaccination and encouraging vaccination not just for the children in the community but also for workforce, so all the teachers and staff that help keep the school up and running, I think that is very important."
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