It’s been more than one year since COVID-19 arrived in Scott County, and since then Scott County Schools has been forced to adapt.
Students switched back and forth from in-person to virtual learning multiple times over the last year, before in-person learning resumed in February. But the change will likely still have effects on students for some time to come.
“Our student learning team and principals are working diligently to address learning loss resulting from the pandemic,” said Superintendent Dr. Kevin Hub. “They have a forward-thinking plan which includes student support and professional development for teachers to ensure quality instruction based on critical standards of learning.”
Part of this has included the development of a Recovery Team, whose responsibility is to meet the learning needs of students resulting from the pandemic. Ken Bicknell, superintendent of Student Learning, said the SCS program is being called the Curriculum Instruction Assessment Recovery.
“All of the research you can look at will say you can’t recover everything in a year,” he said. “What we’re doing right now, the importance of the curriculum next year and the importance of instruction assessment, and we’re creating plans that strategically put us in a place to do the most we can next year, build on that the following year and our goal, ultimately, is to be back in line with everything by the end of the second year.”
This data is based on research from areas affected by natural disasters and shows that, with the amount of time students have been in virtual learning, it may take up to two years for things to return to how they were before COVID-19. Because of this, Bicknell said the whole process is designed for the 2021-2022 academic year. But SCS is doing all it can to stay ahead of the curve.
“Right now, we have principals that have submitted plans for a very robust summer school,” he said. “We have some schools already in the district that are doing Saturday school and students are volunteering to come in. Just the fact that we’re in-person now is making a huge difference than if we were still in virtual until summer, so we’re able to get a jumpstart on this recovery.”
In fact, at last week’s Scott County Board of Education meeting, Bicknell gave his Student Achievement Report where he reported that anywhere from 40 to 80 students have been participating in Saturday school voluntarily.
SCS has done targeted assistance throughout virtual learning to help assess where the need is, Bicknell said. He added that the summer school program being developed will not be like how the public traditionally thinks of summer school.
“We’re targeting in on things that we know need to be recovered and just think how much more that’s going to get students to the point at the start of the year that we may even be able to progress and actually begin farther along than we might have,” he said. “We’re looking at all students and what their needs are and how we can support them like we do every day in education. This is just something that was given to us and our folks have adapted and tried to mitigate all of the issues with COVID educationally.”
SCS will also be providing transportation for students and federal dollars to assist with funding.
At last week’s school board meeting, Bicknell said the summer school program is also looking into a variety of subjects including STEM, physical education and catch-up or acceleration programs for those high schoolers approaching graduation. As schools have adapted to this new style of learning, the need has shifted.
“The focus of that time let spring from the state of Kentucky was that we were to work on just helping to support skill-level things,” he said. “This year, even in virtual and of course in person, we have moved forward to increase new learning and new material. This year is way different than last spring in that fact that we are doing grade-level learning. We are working through what you would normally work through in a given year whether we’re in person or virtual.”
Hub said he is pleased to see how well SCS has adapted throughout uncertain times of the pandemic.
“This year has been unlike any other during my tenure in education,” Hub said. “Again and again, I have been amazed by the dedication and creativity of our teachers and staff. We know that in-person education is vital for student success and are thrilled to have students back in the classroom. We are using each day to its fullest capacity to make up for lost time.”
There has been a large number of students who were eager to resume in-person learning, which Bicknell said will make the recovery even more smooth.
“Students want to be in school,” he said. “They want to be here. Just the socialization factor of being with friends is an important factor with school that comes with learning. When we come back in person, students are excited in a different way than I’ve ever seen it. Students are excited about being back just because they want to be in school and those needs that they have, whether it be socialization or just know that we’re going to get back in school and get back to what school’s really supposed to be about, I think that’s the excitement that all of our students have. When I talk to them, that’s the message that I get.”
When the option first became available for students, approximately 75 percent chose to return to in-person. But now Bicknell said that number is around 80 percent, with some schools reporting even higher.
It’s not just students who were eager to get back to schools. Bicknell said teachers are also signing up to assist with summer and Saturday school programs.
“When I talk to teachers about what’s going on this summer and what we’re doing now that we’re back in school, they’re excited about it,” he said. “They’re in this business for a reason. They’re passionate about it and they’re excited about doing the things that we’re going to do as we move forward.”
Part of student success is also reliant on the teacher’s success, Bicknell said. This also required that their professional learning and development be virtual for this year, and the results were impressive.
“We start planning our professional learning in January or February,” he said. “We had the professionally learning set up to go when COVID hit. We were able to pivot and make it entirely virtual. We had more professional learning participation than we’ve had in years and all of the focus last year is how do we most effectively do virtually learning.”
But with the majority of SCS teachers and staff now vaccinated, Bicknell said the focus of that professional development has shifted.
“This year, our entire focus is the curriculum instruction assessment and how to do recovery learning,” he said. “Last year, that was the need and this year, this is the need. We’re using the data and the research to build what we have. Like everywhere else, this isn’t something you can pull a lot from because it’s one-off. This is custom-made.”
Still, Bicknell said the ability for SCS to adapt showed the value and dedication of the community on all ends.
“I am extremely proud of the adaption that we’ve made and that we’ve morphed into this ability to be able to provide students an education, whether it be virtual or in person,” he said.
Bicknell said he’s been impressed with the SCS community throughout the entirety of the pandemic.
“I think it’s really important to know just how truly dedicated the team here at the district along with the school teams have been,” he said. “The collaboration and the teamwork that’s been doing on that’s part of School County Schools. I’ve been in a lot of places over my three decades of education, and this is an outstanding district that puts children first. It’s very visible and evident as we’ve gone through this pandemic.”
Kyle Woosley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.