With students falling behind on their learning due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic, the Unionville-Sebewaing Area School District is taking a different approach to get them up to speed.
Starting this week, the district will have students take part in the Patriot Academic Support for Students program, where Wednesday afternoons will be dedicated to helping struggling students learn more about various subjects.
District Superintendent George Rierson said this came about after looking at various student data over the school year so far. This included the passing rate at the end of the first trimester in November, benchmark testing in December, and looking at students’ passing/failing classes so far in the second trimester.
“We didn’t think we could wait until summer school,” Rierson said, as the district wanted to help struggling students sooner than later.
Starting Feb. 3, on Wednesdays, all elementary school students will be dismissed at 2 p.m. while students in grades 6 through 12 who are currently failing or at risk of failing a class will be able to work with teachers until 2 p.m. to improve their skills, achieve passing grades, and make up for lost credit. Students who have passed all classes and are currently in good academic standing will continue to be dismissed at 11:30 a.m.
The students who attend are split into groups based on their learning needs so that teachers can focus on the students’ appropriate needs
Rierson said he is not aware of any other school districts doing anything like this, saying the district did not want to accept waiting until summer school and started brainstorming ideas. He also does not know if this program will continue for the rest of the school year or not.
“So far, we’ve been able to problem solve our way through this,” Rierson said. “This is helpful for kids who are falling behind, some who had to quarantine. Now they can make up work in person.”
Wednesdays are normally half-days for the district anyway, as teachers have the time to work with students who are attending virtually. Despite only starting this week, Rierson said after school on Wednesday that attendance was very good and the teachers he spoke with had a high number of students come in.
All the USA district’s teachers are involved with this program, with even physical education teachers helping teach math and English. Rierson said this is because there are too many students to be in one room with a math teacher due to COVID-19 mitigation measures in place, with the school principals assigning teachers to cover different subjects.
“They’re willing to accept different roles and challenges to do what’s necessary for this unchartered water,” Rierson said.
Rierson said that with any after school program like this, there are barriers to getting students in, as the older students have to figure out their transportation situation, are sometimes responsible for watching younger siblings in their families, or have jobs they have to get to.
“These are very real issues and barriers to getting help,” Rierson said.
Another benefit of this program is that since students are learning in-person, they can maintain relationships with their teachers and classmates they cannot do virtually.
“The time we were closed in March and in November and December challenged our students and staff,” Rierson said. “We hope to make school a positive experience for kids again.”