San Francisco Unified working on plan to address learning loss

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's a given, when students eventually return to school they will face considerable learning loss.

So, how will districts make up for the loss of in-person learning?

The grim reality is that in order to make up for the year they lost, it will take money, lots of it, and time, an estimated three to five years. San Francisco has a plan.

When COVID-19 forced schools to close last March, school districts still provided all the services offered in a normal school year, add to that thousands of chrome books and technical support beyond anyone's predictions.

Now one year later, the road to academic recovery will far exceed what districts will have already spent.

Learning Loss: Solutions for students struggling with distance learning

Earlier this year the nonprofit Education Resource Strategies analyzed the cost of COVID.

"We're not going to make that all up in one year so this is a multi year challenge in terms of doing this, so somewhere between three and five years," explained Karen Hawley-Miles of the Education Resource Strategies.

That nonprofit which studies big urban districts like San Francisco is suggesting two approaches to deal with the learning loss.

Small group tutoring for the most needed students and, or extended learning time would mean adding an extra month of school or extending the school day.

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They even estimated that adding an extra month would represent a 7% increase in annual operating costs.

But keep in mind that San Francisco Unified already faces a budget deficit of $169 million over the next two years.

"Leave it to San Francisco public school moms to get together to get the ball rolling," expressed San Francisco Board of Supervisor Hillary Ronen.

That board just approved the creation of RISE, the Recovery with Inclusive and Successful Enrichment, a long name for a working group that hopes to create a plan and generate funding to address the COVID learning loss, add more enrichment programs and attract additional kids to public schools -- $2.5 billion over five years.

"We will be looking at our own general fund, we will be looking to the state, we're be looking to the feds with all the packages coming down but we're also going to look to philanthropy," added Ronen and if need-be, a ballot measure to generate funding from San Francisco residents.

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Despite the urgency to remediate the educational loss, Ronen says planning time was lost because the school board was busy renaming schools and changing Lowell High School's admissions policy.

"I am frustrated, extremely frustrated because all of the delays to getting this going have had to do with all the drama that we've seen in our school district," she revealed.

The Board of Supervisors is also proposing an initiative called Summer Play to give kids in San Francisco more access to extracurricular activities in the Summer.

In addition, the school district will come up with its own summer instruction plans.

"We are working really hard to plan for some other extended learning opportunities, specifically targeting our elementary students, those who couldn't and didn't engage in distance learning and those who might have demonstrated some learning loss early on," said Deputy Superintendent, Enikia Ford-Morthel.

And the key, education experts say, is to do it quickly because the further behind they are, the harder it is to catch up.

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