Schools Reopen as Learning Loss Rises and Mental Health Plummets

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Schools Reopen as Learning Loss Rises and Mental Health Plummets

Ava Paulsen, Editor in Chief

A year has passed since the COVID-19 pandemic forced students in LA county out of full-time in-person instruction. Elementary schools only recently opened to part-time in-person instruction; even then, much of the damage of online learning has already been inflicted. Students, particularly younger ones, are falling academically behind and are suffering from mental health issues due to the pandemic. 

A study conducted by Brown University in May of 2020 predicts K-12 student learning loss. One portion of the study states that there will be 63-68 percent of learning gains in reading compared to a typical school year and even fewer gains in math at 37-50 percent. More specifically, fifth and sixth graders are projected to only have 19 percent of the normal academic gains in mathematics. These statistics are detrimental to academic progress, and elementary school students are being unfairly affected. The loss of this foundational knowledge learned in elementary school for younger students is damaging to their future educational prospects. 

Further, there are reports of consequential mental health issues in young students from a study conducted by George Mason University which reached out to K-12 teachers about their student’s mental health. According to the study, 46 percent of teachers encountered students with mental health issues which includes, but is not limited to, anxiety, depression, trauma, and grief.

These statistics are tragic, but not surprising. According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, there are specific elements that directly contribute to younger students’ mental wellbeing. These include indoor and outdoor physical activity which unfortunately has been limited. Being a part of a family that gets along most of the time is another element, which cannot be guaranteed due to the additional stress of unemployment and possible infection. Finally, feeling as though the young person has some control over their life is important, which is difficult as no one has control of the virus. 

Lack of stability in these areas further contributes to mental and emotional turmoil for young students. Not to mention the grief that is associated with the mass death of the population and the inevitable trauma caused by a global pandemic. All of these factors directly impact students’ motivation to make an effort in school.

The big question is, what can the students of Castaic High School and the greater community do to help? 

A new community service project called Notes of Encouragement and Advice for Rising students or NEAR Delivery Service has just launched! This project will be collecting notes of encouragement and advice from older students and members of the community to give to rising sixth graders. 

The sixth graders transitioning to Jr. high school students are not only suffering from the learning loss and mental health issues listed above, but they are also missing the crucial year of transition and support that sixth grade provides. These letters will allow students with diverse experiences to write notes in order to pass on wisdom gained through the pandemic or advice from their experience in Jr. high school. 

The letters submitted will be given to the sixth-grade students at West Creek Academy before the end of the 2020-2021 school year. NEAR Delivery Service is currently working with Bring Change to Mind to expand the project to other campuses in order for other rising students to receive notes. 

This program would greatly appreciate submissions and you can also receive community service hours for your contribution. If you would like to participate visit the Instagram at @neardelivery or email [email protected].