Teachers, students, and parents are excited about returning to school, and eager to resume face-to-face instruction. However, adequate preparations are lacking, in that educators will contend with “learning loss” and trauma associated with the eighteen-month disruption.
Students faced a myriad of issues during the pandemic, from a lack of connectivity to depression and isolation, to academic setback. Educators were impacted by some of the same issues, as well as the unprecedented transition to online/hybrid instruction. Parents expressed concerns over the prevalence of computer-based instruction, and have come to appreciate teachers for our nurturing, training, and skills.
However, as we design the post-pandemic school model, we must reduce the large student-to-teacher ratios, address teacher shortages, and balance “accelerated learning” models and curriculum with pedagogically sound practices. This requires the inclusion of our education community and parents.
As a result of the pandemic, the Federal government awarded EPISD $190.6 million to address the “learning loss.” Unfortunately, current board and administration leadership has yet to conduct adequate and sufficient community meetings to ensure consideration of insightful recommendations.
The 2016 EPISD $668 million bond had allotted funds for technology infrastructure that would have alleviated many issues plaguing students, especially those residing in the South Side. Much of that bond money was not properly allocated, and now district leadership is wanting to spend the ESSER II $190 million funds to purchase additional technology.
What is sorely needed is additional teachers. The personal connection established between students and teachers is foremost before authentic learning can take place. This cannot be effectively nurtured if class sizes exceed twenty students in elementary settings, and twenty-five in middle and high school settings. Unfortunately, the ESSER II funds cannot be utilized to staff permanent positions, so a review of the General Fund balance may likely prompt the hiring of additional teachers.
Lastly, considering the increasing infection and death rates associated with the Delta variant of COVID-19, the callous dismissal of mask mandates by the Texas governor, and the lack of a vaccine for younger children, it is imperative that class sizes be a priority.
Forums are currently being organized to encourage district employees to collaborate with the community in establishing a vision and goal that would best serve our children.
About the Author:
Xavier Miranda is a community activist and a teacher at the El Paso Independent School District. Miranda can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . Miranda encourages members of the community to engage in helping to establish goals to best serve the children. Miranda may be contacted for additional information.
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