White County elementary school puts funding towards getting students back on track amid pandemic


PANGBURN, Ark. – The pandemic is having a lasting impact on students, causing major learning loss in the last year and a half. One White County school district is using every resource to get students back up to speed.

Class is back in session at Pangburn Elementary School but many of the kids filling the desks are starting behind.

“It’s because of the shutdown, because of the kids being in quarantine, because of some kids doing virtual school last year,” Pangburn School District Superintendent David Rolland said.

Rolland said that’s why they are putting most of their funding towards closing that gap.

“We can’t make those reasons our excuses,” Rolland said.

They started the progress this summer, offering summer school from June through July. Elementary Principal Mary Rieck said teachers came in and helped select students who could use more time in the classroom.

“Students who needed that extra boost and move on throughout the summer without the break,” Rieck said.
With almost 40% of students falling behind, that extra help didn’t stop when all students hit the halls.

“We’ve never seen learning loss like this,” Literacy Facilitator Stephanie Vernon said.

Vernon said they’ve added teachers to work with students in small groups focusing mainly on reading.

“Phonics work and then moving on from there to comprehension, fluency, vocabulary. Those are the areas that are weak right now that we’re really working on,” Vernon said.

They’ve also added an after-school program.

“That is our number one priority is to get these kids on grade level,” Assistant Principal Suzanne Louks said.

Louks heads the after-school program. She said reading, math, and specialized teachers are staying late to achieve that goal.

“Everybody in the district is committed to the kids,” Louks said.

Teachers and administrators say it will take a while to get all students back on track, but they’ve already started to see an improvement.

“We celebrate every ounce of growth that we get from the kids. It will take beyond this year to really close the gap,” Vernon said.

The district continues to test students to see where they stand and how much ground they are making up.

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