ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The past couple of years have been hard for everyone, especially students.
They lost months of learning when the pandemic started, then had an entire year of remote classes. Local school district leaders shared the trauma on their students Wednesday.
They stressed the importance of understanding the impact COVID-19 has caused, where schools are now and what work is ahead.
“That students that wanted to have that in person learning experience had it, and finding ways to meet needs during the pandemic,” said Dr. Ehren Jarrett, superintendent of RPS 205. “Now, we have shifted into a new phase, which has meant millions of dollars going to community partnerships to extend learning.”
Students went from missing months of work to working remotely during the pandemic. The superintendents from Rockford Public Schools and Harlem Schools are now sharing what worked for their students and what did not, as well as the additional resources they put into place to try and get back to normal.
“We now have a social worker at every school, you know, just adding some supports like that where our kids have someone to talk to when they need it,” said Dr. Terrell Yarbrough, superintendent of Harlem 122.
“An attendance specialist, behaviorist, and of course tremendous amount of academic support,” Jarrett added.
They discussed everything from attendance data, enrollment and academic outcomes on Wednesday, in addition to addressing the significant impact on student’s academic progress and well-being.
“We are going to have to continue to prioritize and invest in education, in care, in social and emotional support, in extra extracurricular actives and in summer enrichment for years to come,” said Robin Stevens, president of Advance Illinois.
Data showed that academic performance and graduation rates dropped in all grades, but are picking back up. They also found that the trauma of COVID-19 has many students in downward spirals mentally.
“We obviously we can’t solve all the problems in one day, so hopefully we can continue to bounce things off each other,” Yarbrough said.
Both superintendents agreed that it takes a village to raise a child, so they encourage the whole community to step up and support students.
“We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to ensure our students have a rapid recovery for any learning that has been lost,” Jarrett said. “That we can support not only their academic needs, but their social, emotional needs.”
The superintendents hope to continue to have more conversations like this to keep their students progressing forward.