A look at summer school in the Triad amid the pandemic

Buckley Report

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — The pandemic has been a learning experience, even for veteran teachers like Tonette McQueen at Hunter Elementary in Greensboro.

“I have learned that teachers are, without a doubt, resilient,” said McQueen, about what she’s learned during the pandemic. “Students are resilient. And we are capable – both teachers and students – are capable of adapting to the scenarios.”

But that doesn’t mean the pandemic has been a learning experience in the way that we’d like it to be – most students lost a significant amount of what they likely would have learned if the pandemic had never happened.

Sha’Corie Graham has seen that first hand. She not only works at Hunter Elementary but has her three children in school there, including her oldest, 8-year-old Zion.

“He loves school,” Sha’Corie said of Zion. “He asks me, ‘Mom, do we have school tomorrow?’ And I say, ‘Yes, school is tomorrow.’”

Zion responds with a smile. But the pandemic has been tough on him because he is now lagging behind in his reading scores.

McQueen is one of his teachers and she understands why so many students fell behind during remote learning of the pandemic.

“I have strengthened my understanding of how important it is for students to be present and for good instruction to take place,” McQueen said. With remote learning, she says of the students, “I cannot hide behind a computer screen, I cannot cut my camera off, I cannot choose to not respond even though the teacher is asking me a question directly. (In-person instruction) puts that accountability piece back into student learning.”

What schools are dealing with this summer is what they always deal with – children learning at different rates – but those differences appear to be exacerbated by the pandemic and its remote learning.

“Students will learn at different rates,” McQueen said. “Whether there was a pandemic or wasn’t a pandemic, students are going to arrive at different skill levels at different periods of time. However, if you come to school each day, you show up and arrive, you are positive and you’re ready to learn, learning will happen. So, the moral of this story is just show up, let’s try our best, let’s put forth effort so learning can happen.”

McQueen is confident students can catch up but many of them will need one-on-one or small-group instruction, she believes.

Sha’Corie Graham is cautiously confident as well.

“It’s nobody’s fault but it’s going to take some time to overcome,” Graham said. “Our school system needs help more now than ever, that’s my biggest concern about it all.”

See just how much summer school has exploded over the last two years in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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