Kane Area School District, spreading over 250 square miles in McKean and Elk Counties, has been holding in-person classes during the 2020-2021 school year, with the exception of ten and a half days when the district went online due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases and an additional eight days where high school students were remote.
The pandemic has made remote learning a reality. But despite logistical challenges and health risks, schools have endeavored to keep classrooms open.
Kane Area School District Superintendent Brock Benson said his community saw that as a common goal. He said students, staff and parents wanted in-person learning because the alternatives are just not the same.
“The students that are online, just for various reasons, have not performed to the same level as those that are in-person,” Benson said. “And it’s very, very evident.”
A study done by the National Parent Teacher Association found 63% of parents believe their child is behind where they would be in a normal school year.
The district offered its 1,100 students livestreams and asynchronous materials, but 80% of families chose to be in person.
Meeting safety guidelines, like making sure students were six feet apart in school buildings, can be challenging at times, Benson said. They decided to use the gym for high school students to have lunch. So far in the school year, 34 students and 16 school staff tested positive for the virus.
But Benson said assessments throughout the school year showed students have improved academically, especially for elementary students, catching up after the learning loss they suffered the previous spring.