Students, parents prepare to play catch-up over the summer, and big changes this fall

PITTSBURGH — The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped certain aspects of our lives, one of those being education.

Over the last year, our region and country have learned more about the inequities our school districts face, and that a one-size-fits-all approach means every student is not getting the same opportunity.

“She has received straight As. She is on the high honor roll. She’s a great student. I would still say that she has been affected from online learning,” said Jasmine Paolino, Pittsburgh Public Schools parent.

Paolino tells Channel 11 that despite all of the challenges over the past year, she is amazed how her sixth grade-student, Aya, adjusted to the challenges.

“Not all students are visual learners. Sometimes, you need the overall experience to really help you intake what you have to learn; and a lot of that was taken away,” said Paolino.

“Now more than ever, we will have to personalize education. There is not one solution for every child because this experience has been different for every child and family,” said Brian White, Superintendent of Butler Area School District.As the pandemic becomes more manageable, many school districts plan to play catch-up in the coming months.

White says their summer program will see three times the usual attendance, and the district will waive costs for programs to help combat learning loss.Students will also see changes when the fall semester arrives.

“In grades seven and eight, we are moving to have every student take two periods of mathematics and two periods of English language arts,” said White.

As many schools focused on obtaining laptops and tablets for their students, one concern became evident to educators in our area about online learning.

“So are they learning? Yes. Are they learning to their full potential? No,” said Frank Dalmas, Superintendent of Sto-Rox School District.

Dalmas says while kids learn better in the classroom, virtual learning is a tool that will stay after the pandemic. His school district approved to continue the use of virtual education even after the pandemic is over, as a way for suspended students to continue their education while serving their punishment.

“We don’t need to keep kids out of school anymore. We have the capability, we have the knowledge to be able to deliver an instructional program virtually. So that should be for every kid, in school or out of school,” said Dalmas.

The district also hopes to add online learning as an option for students who need to stay home due to illness, which is an idea parents support.

”I would love to see continued the option of doing online learning, because now that we have been able to transition full-time with it, we should at least be able to use that as a point of access for even part-time,” said Paolino.