ANDERSON — The COVID-19 pandemic and the learning loss it has caused over the past two years remains a concern for local superintendents as they try to move forward with the 2022-23 school year.
But local superintendents said their schools and districts have learned better processes and procedures for managing what has become a fact of life. That includes the use of masks, social distancing and quarantine, depending on spreads reported by state and county health departments.
And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of vaccines for people from age 6 months on, meaning students and staff can be protected.
Sterling Boles, superintendent at Frankton-Lapel Community Schools, said many of his district’s processes and procedures are better for the experience.
“We have a clearer path moving forward,” he said.
Since COVID-19 burst onto the scene in March 2020, individual classrooms, school buildings and districts have experienced a series of closures and other strategies to slow the spread.
But some of those measures, especially closures and quarantines, have come at a price, contributing to student learning loss, sometimes referred to as the “COVID slide.”
“There’s no glaring number, like we’ve met this math standard but didn’t meet this other standard,” Boles said. “It’s been different things at different grade levels. I think we’re gaining ground. We still have a ways to go.
“It was a unique and stressful time for all the stakeholders.”
That includes parents who suddenly had to juggle being teachers along with their regular jobs, he said.
“It’s been a challenge for all of us from bus drivers to maintenance. Our bus drivers, for instance, are our oldest group and are the most vulnerable.”
Boles and other area superintendents hope to keep extreme measures, such as closures and quarantines, to a minimum so students have an opportunity to experience the advantages of in-person education.
Kyle Barrentine, superintendent at Shenandoah School Corp., said he plans to approach the 2022-23 school year in the same manner as a pre-pandemic year.
“There’s a lot more information we have about COVID we didn’t have in 2020 or 2021,” he said. “I think we know how to mitigate and continue on with the most normal things we can.”
Troy Friedersdorf admitted the pandemic has been rough on students in his district.
“I don’t think our struggles are any worse, but they are very real and significant,” he said. “Some of the initiatives we have put in place for remediation, credit recovery and learning loss have been good.”
Still, the pandemic gave the district an opportunity to examine what works and what doesn’t, forcing true and lasting change, Friedersdorf said.
“It’s almost an opportunity for a fresh start,” he said. “We had a break from doing things the way we’d always done them.”
Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.