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Educators address ’learning loss’ caused by shifting models

Nevada Joint Union High School District Brett McFadden said his district shifted between in-person, distance and hybrid learning models four times since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Brett McFadden, superintendent of the Nevada Joint Union High School District, listed the challenges public education institutions have endured over the past year.

They include pandemic-related mental health issues, the testing of new instructional models and changing operational protocols.

“As hard as it’s been, the pandemic taught us that we are capable of pivoting on a dime,” McFadden said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.



Nevada Joint Union High School District graduation rates

2018 — 91.4%

2019 — 90.5%

2020 — 86.4%

McFadden said his district has had to shift between in-person, distance and hybrid learning models four times since the pandemic began in March 2020.

He attributed the difference in the 2020 and 2019 graduation rate to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.




“Some students ended up leaving, so our data got skewed,” McFadden said, adding his office does not anticipate the graduation rate lowering anymore in 2021 than it has already. “The rate will be between 86 and 91% because of COVID-19’s effect on student learning and credit attainment.”

Students currently have a modified 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. schedule. The district still relies on distance learning on Wednesdays to clean the campus according to regulations.

McFadden said district faculty hopes to address the “learning loss” experienced between school closures, distance learning and the hybrid model through credit recovery.

Seniors in need of credits may acquire more by attending summer school this summer, coordinating additional course work with teachers and tutoring time on and off-campus.

McFadden said the elected board of trustees waived the district’s 220-credit requirement to graduate given the mounting pressures of the pandemic crises. The waiver cannot be used to avoid taking core requirements like math and science, but can be useful to those who may have failed a course due to missing or late assignments.

The availability of the credit-waiver will be situation-specific, and each case’s approval will be determined by the school and faculty working with the student in question.

“It’s not a blanket waiver,“ McFadden said. ”It’s an individualized student plan.“

CHANGES

McFadden said the Nevada Joint Union High School Teachers Association’s vote on “sweeping new schedule changes” that allows for eight-period days, as opposed to six, ends today.

McFadden said the vast majority of schools in the state already operate on an eight-period day schedule, and that additional periods would offer students more time to explore interests that will orient their careers post-graduation.

McFadden said the five schools in the district — Nevada Union, Bear River, Silver Springs, Ghidotti and North Point Academy — are looking to fortify available vocational programs.

“Offering robust career technical programs is part of who we are,” McFadden said. “The challenge that we have is that we are preparing students for careers that don’t even exist yet.”

McFadden highlighted the available vocational courses in the agricultural, automotive, hospitality and software development sectors.

Supervisor Sue Hoek said offering students career-oriented courses during their period of secondary education gives students options to think creatively about their future, especially in a trying time.

“Not all kids are going to go to college,” Hoek said. “Maybe they won’t go this year, but they’ll work trade so they can go next year.”

Hoek said her own daughter became a beautician early on, which eventually helped her pay to become a special education teacher.

Linda Melugin, the district’s scholarship/fund coordinator, said in spite of the unknown, district seniors are taking advantage of local scholarship opportunities available to help them pay for their freshman year in college or university.

Melugin said over 170 local scholarships are offered exclusively to seniors in the district. In 2019, 33% of seniors participated in the scholarship program. Melugin said the interest in available financial support doubled in 2020 after the program “went digital.”

Melugin said 492 of the district’s 706 total students applied for assistance. Melugin said 11 of the 195 students who received a scholarship through the district in 2020 indicated they would take a gap year.

She anticipates just over 50% of seniors taking advantage of the program this year, down 20% from 2020.

McFadden said the unprecedented challenges faced in the educational realm were similar to those confronted by other major agencies across the county.

The last year has presented many opportunities for the district to collaborate with other trusted entities in the community to provide support for the students.

McFadden said he would like to see different departments interface to offer students targeted support and resources based off academic performance as well as social or financial poverty.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com.


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