Onalaska and Sparta school leaders optimistic about in-person start to school year

Studies suggest students are struggling to read; Coulee Region school leaders say they're in better position in 2021

SPARTA, Wis. (WKBT) – A study shows children are struggling to read after months of virtual learning. The study is out of Stanford University. The start of 2021’s school year is just better in Kyla Manske’s eyes.

“It is wonderful to have kids back in the building,” said Manske, an instructional coach for the Sparta School District.

After an inconsistent schedule for students in recent months, there is plenty to work on in person.

“Some of the social skills, just how do you work together as collaborative people,” Manske said.

Parents faced tremendous obstacles when their children learned from home, Manske said .

“I think a lot of parents were very frustrated,” she said.

Manske would know — she is a parent herself.

“It was overwhelming,” Manske said. “It was really hard to balance.”

A Stanford University Graduate School study found elementary school students’ ability to read out loud during the pandemic was affected greatly when schools went virtual abruptly because of the pandemic.

“Reading is the foundation for all of our subject areas,” said Kim Thole. “It’s hard to sometimes do some of our math problems if students are struggling.”

Special education students had to work especially hard to get back on track. During virtual school Sparta allowed these students to go to school because virtual learning alone could not meet the needs of these students.

“Some of the services they receive you simply cannot do virtually,” Manske said.

Teachers learned about their students’ lives away from school last year. Some students do not live in stable home environments.

How do you approach that problem for kids? We have amazing counselors and when there were things that we noticed councilors were involved.”

Manske said students impressed her at how they handled the changes so quickly.

“They definitely have stronger tech skills than I do,” Manske said. “Their ability to persevere when things are not easy.”

They say this fall will teach them more so teachers can perform their calling.

“The bottom line is our job is to make sure every student learns and grows every year,” Manske said.

Sparta school leaders say teachers are communicating more this year to find out what students need more help with this year. School leaders in Onalaska and Sparta say standardized tests will provide a good benchmark for how districts are doing this year.

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