Athens ISD to spend $2.1M to combat ‘COVID slide’

Athens ISD plans to spend 2.1 million dollars over the course of three years on academic recovery program
Updated: Apr. 14, 2021 at 7:27 PM CDT
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ATHENS, Texas (KLTV) - If you’re a parent or a teacher, you’ve probably heard of the ‘summer slide.’ 2020 introduced us to what is being called the ‘COVID slide,’ but one East Texas school district has introduced a plan to get its students back on track.

Many students across East Texas spent the 2020 school year learning remotely.

“Well, to put it bluntly, it was rough,” says Dr. Karah Coker, a parent of three students at Athens ISD. “My kids struggled. They definitely had a setback for sure.”

Educators say those setbacks due to remote learning have caused the ‘COVID slide,’ or a loss of student learning caused by the pandemic.

“We’re all familiar with the summer slide, because if you’ve taught any time at all children just go backwards a little bit in the summer,” says Athens ISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Janie Sims. “They just take a little dip, and then we have to get them caught up when they come back. But this is different. This is in addition to that.”

“When we talk about ‘COVID slide,’ it didn’t just affect our students who were struggling already, [it affected] all students,” says Nikki Mason, the principal at South Athens Elementary. “Because everyone loses learning if they don’t continue to practice.”

Sims says that between the ‘summer slide’ and the ‘COVID slide’ some students are behind seven to eight months.

“They just don’t learn at the same rate virtually,” she says. “Even having their teacher virtually is not the same as when the teacher can be there face to face.”

Athens ISD now has a solution to combat the ‘COVID slide’- a $2.1 million plan over the course of three years to help students recover academically.

Sims says that she knows the strongest thing that her district can do for children is putting a strong teacher in front of them. So, the funds will go primarily towards hiring twelve new positions across the school district; seven at the elementary level and five at the secondary level.

The money comes from the district’s fund balance, which is like a savings account. The school board approved the use of the money unanimously.

“They sent a very clear message to our community that our kids are absolutely a priority here,” says Sims.

The program will start in the fall. It will focus on getting students in front of content-specific teachers and reducing student-to-teacher ratios. Dr. Sims says they’ll monitor the plan’s effectiveness over the next three years.

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