Students who fall through the cracks with remote learning and how most may be behind in the fall

Education

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — 86 percent of the 25,000 students in the Sioux Falls School District are taking part in online learning or physically getting their assignments and completing them. The district has been tracking those numbers for the last three weeks.

Yet, a big concern is the 14 percent who are missing in action when it comes to their school work.

One advantage of online learning is that on a beautiful day you take the lesson outside.

“The thing I like about home schooling is there’s not as much work,” Mason Svennes said with a laugh.

Second grader Mason Svennes and his mom are working on math.

“They put on videos to virtually teach the class, so we can, so we can go at this on my days off,” Jerilyn Svennes said.

Jerilyn Svennes says being the parent and the teacher, for all three of her kids, isn’t easy.

“It’s been difficult. I realize that really isn’t my calling. It’s difficult to balance work, home, regular home life with teaching them and trying to keep them engaged in learning,” Jerilyn Svennes said.

Jerilyn Svennes helps her second-grader, Mason, with school assignments

The Svennes are fortunate that they have the tools to make online learning work. MIDCO has been helping to provide free internet access to families that didn’t have it. However, there are still 600 students who the district hasn’t been able to reach at all.

“600 kids that we haven’t been able to touch base with in the last month–that’s not okay. But we’ll go knock on doors. We have principals that do that, we have counselors that do that. We have social workers that do that. We have school liaisons that do that if we have a language barrier,” Sioux Falls School District Superintendent Brian Maher said.

Another challenge for the district is meeting the needs of special education students during the pandemic.

“We think the most recent information from the governor is going to open up a little more of that access to where we can meet with students more face-to-face today than we have over the last few weeks,” Maher said.

A concern for all students is the quality of learning taking place remotely.

“I feel like I’m falling behind; because there’s one lesson I did today and I thought I was on lesson three, but I was on lesson one,” Mason Svennes said.

“They have priority assignments and we focus on those. If it’s not working well on one day, we quit and we go outside,” Jerilyn Svennes said.

District officials aren’t as worried about students like Mason, who have internet access and involved parents, as they are about those who don’t.

“I am most worried about our students who live in poverty. We really are going to need to assess where students are and in many cases probably do a good chunk of re-teaching in the fall.”

Brian Maher, Sioux Falls School District Superintendent

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