Magicvalley.com COMMUNITY COLUMNIST, Brugger: Let’s help the kids

Linda Brugger, Magicvalley.com February 10, 2021

There are those who have demonstrated. There are those who have written to legislators and representatives. There are those who have contacted the school board and the health district. There are those who lament a lost generation of learners. Now it is time for all of us to consider what we can do to help young brains hampered by a vicious microscopic virus.

Young minds are ready to learn. From the day they take their first breath, babies have little to do but learn everything they can about living in this world. Kids need school. The schools have not been equipped to continue to provide the required quality of education while the grownups were trying to figure out how to prevent people from dying in a country attacked by a virus.

More money is on the way to help our school districts pay for the testing, sanitation, and improved HVAC systems needed to make schools safer from disease transmission. It is harder to determine what to do to make up for the lost time spent in the chaotic school year.

Every child will have unique needs. The range goes from kids who lost an entire grade of learning to those who have only information gaps. Re-establishing social bonds can be more of a problem for some kids than any other educational challenges.

Our communities around the state can meet the challenges of reclaiming the educational ground using unique approaches. My question is, what tactics will they use? I shudder to think of the problems that will emerge when these precious people become adults and leaders if those who can help do not.

There are local resources in place to be used. Our communities have scores of individuals with skills enough to provide tutoring and mentoring. Libraries are full of books and computers, and research librarians. Empty schools furnish enough space to gather. Thanks to efforts made during the past year, on-line support is robust and increasingly accessible. The effort must be coordinated and targeted. It must be effective. The results must be noticeable in September of this year. Anything less cannot meet the goals our school systems need. While every school community should provide suitable answers, here are some suggested steps. Assess every child’s needs as comprehensively as possible. (Yes, I am thinking of an uncomplicated individual plan). Design the programs recommended to close the gap(s). Contract with the child and family to assure result. Assess again in October because everyone needs to feel that the outcome was worth the effort. Teachers are competent at this without formal standardized testing. Federal money may be available, but we need to get creative to deal with the enormous effort. The state may appropriate money for supplemental salaries. Volunteers are necessary. Can the state assist by allowing a verified in-kind wage rate as a donation to education? It could qualify under the current tax credit allowance on state returns. Can businesses offer perks to volunteers? Maybe “local dollars” for goods and services? How about child-care co-ops?

The answers will be up to local school boards and their willingness to become creative. Support for the concept and the effort must come from you and everyone who demonstrated, wrote, complained and worried. Without public support, nothing will happen. It isn’t enough to talk about the problem. Action is needed. My email inbox is open. You can write to the editor. You can contact your school board, the state school board or a school superintendent. Give your thoughts and your talents toward this effort. If we start planning this month, the pieces will be in place over the summer. Congratulations to the kids who were able to overcome the challenges of these unusual times. We can design a summer of interest and study for those who need it. Award every child with the chance to succeed despite our despair about the past and the opportunities lost.

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