Pickerington Schools setting up plan to help struggling students

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Pickerington Schools Superintendent Chris Briggs

Pickerington Schools will offer classroom intervention and summer programming to help students who struggled academically during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic get back on track.  

Virtual learning and a hybrid model in which students attend in-person classes twice a week have enabled the district to continue instruction during the pandemic. However, district officials said a concerning number of students have fallen behind, either because they have struggled with the decrease in face-to-face instruction time or because they haven’t regularly taken part in online classes.  

Superintendent Chris Briggs said during a Jan. 25 school board meeting the district is “losing some students that are not showing great attendance and are failing.”  

That view was supported by district data that showed the number of classes failed at Pickerington High School North increased 57.1% between the first semester of 2019-20 and the first semester of 2020-21. The increase at Pickerington High School Central was 46.7%.

At Lakeview and Ridgeview junior high schools, the combined increase in classes failed was 43.8%.

“We have lower student engagement in the hybrid model,” Briggs said. “We know two days a week is nice to have that in-person instruction, but it’s not quite the same as having five days a week working with the teacher and their peers.”  

In response, the district has rolled out a remediation plan to identify students who are failing or at risk of failing for the school year and to provide increased instruction and intervention with them during regular classes.  

Students who are behind will be required to attend school for in-person instruction each Wednesday until the district returns to five-day-a-week classes April 5. Through the pandemic, no in-person classes have been held on Wednesdays.  

Sabrina Woodruff, Pickerington Schools chief academic officer

“If there have been failures in more than one course or more than one quarter …  students will utilize Wednesday,” said Sabrina Woodruff, assistant superintendent and chief academic officer. “Transportation will be provided to target those participating students.  

“We’ll be looking at three hours per Wednesday. I believe we’ve landed on 55-minute sessions where students will be able to rotate among sessions once their needs have been prioritized.”  

In addition to the increased intervention, the district plans to enhance summer-school opportunities. Woodruff said the programs will provide students the opportunity to complete assignments given during the school year, as well as alternate assignments that would enable students to demonstrate competency.  

Administrators will recruit teachers to lead “boot camps” for failing students and students who have passed their grade level but who might seek to supplement their learning over the previous year.  

“It might just be a two-week or three-week refreshment course for any student,” Woodruff said. “It doesn’t have to be an at-risk student or a student in danger of failing. All of the courses would be contingent on the interest we have and the available staff we have.”  

Briggs said he doesn’t anticipate the additional intervention and summer programs having a detrimental impact on the operating budget because most of the additional expenses can be covered by the district’s share of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding.  

Woodruff and board member Keith Kristoff said in addition to providing additional intervention for students, a key to getting them back on track academically will be to instill a sense of urgency in those who are behind.  

“This can’t wait,” Kristoff said. “It has to move on and it has to move on now.”  

nellis@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekNate