Juneau School Board candidates address academic loss from online classes

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - During the Juneau Chamber of Commerce's weekly luncheon Thursday, Juneau Board of Education candidates were asked about recovering and rebounding students going forward, following online learning last year.

    Among the subjects discussed were fiscal issues, teacher retention, and of course COVID-19.

    Moderator, and chamber board member, John Blasco, asked the candidates that given the year that Juneau had of 2020 being online, what are their thoughts on how they can recover/rebound kids to ensure that they get the full education that they need and experience moving forward in terms of classroom and in person.

    Ibn Bailey, co-owner of the Alaska Tea House, said he thought the schools should bring in professionals

    "I think when we're looking at putting in professionals into our schools such as counselors or psychologists or teachers or instructors that can help the children process, as they need, when you start to see some of the results of the lockdown that we've had and the distance learning. The children are just getting to know their peers again and being very excited, and some children actually coming back with some other concerns as well. I think as we have professionals in here to actually help with the processing of what happened that would be positive."

    Elizabeth Siddon, a fisheries research biologist with NOAA and current board president, emphasized the importance of in-person learning

    "The recovery from the distance learning under COVID is our top priority, and the way that the school board and the district are approaching that is to keep our sights on keeping our kids in classrooms, in person with their teachers. We know that's where they learn best, and we know that's the best place for them to be for their social-emotional health as well with their peers," Siddon said." So all of the mitigations that we've put in place are put in place with that goal in mind."

    Thom Buzard, a semi-retired long time Juneau resident, said he thinks the best way to recover is through long hours and hard work,

    "I look at this from a business perspective, in some cases, you cannot collect lost revenue or lost production. In other cases, you can run your crew on an overtime basis, and instead of working eight hours a day you might work 10 hours a day, six days a week to get caught up, Saturday school might be an option. These are things that we could do to catch up, I think they are doable and it's not really an unreasonable situation considering the fact that in 2020, a lot of people, a lot of staff had a lot of time off, they were paid, and stayed home and then on the flip side of that, of course, a lot of teachers had to work a lot of extra time in order to handle the virtual aspects, but I think we could do that, Saturday school is a great option.

    Amber Frommherz, former director of Tlingit & Haida’s Head Start program, said we need to shift the framing of the pandemic entirely.

    "I think in terms of rebound and recovery for students, that we as adults and our community members, we need to be mindful of how we're framing this, and that it's not always going to be a half-empty kind of scenario. I think it's just as important in terms of finding out how we're going to recover and recoup, but also, in addition to that, reframing the fact that our students made it, our staff made it, and our school board led the way with the superintendent," Frommherz said. "So I think being mindful of like resilience kind of framework, the affirmation of the resiliency that they have proven, and our community's ability to gather together to get us through this moment is important."

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