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School board hears about effects of pandemic at campuses

Joshua Baethge,
The Van Alstyne Leader
Howe ISD Superintendent Kevin Wilson, left, discusses the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the district's students during the Sept. 21 Howe ISD Board of Trustees meeting.

HOWE - Howe ISD principals discussed the effects of COVID-19 on student progress during the Sept. 21 Board of Trustees meeting.

While all generally agreed that the abrupt switch to online learning last spring put kids behind academically, the also believed that it was a challenge they would be able to overcome.

Howe Middle School Principal Clay Wilson said his campus’ students were between a half-year and a full year behind where they should be in math.

Howe High School Principal Phil Kempson said that scores from the beginning-of-the-year assessment tests were also lower than would normally be expected, something he also chalks up the effects of the pandemic.

“We had talked about the ‘COVID slide,’ and I asked the principals to share a little bit about the beginning-of-the-year assessments. and they confirmed what we anticipated,” Howe ISD Superintendent Kevin Wilson said.

“That’s our number one concern. We know we’re not going to get completely caught up but we’re going to stress it, we’re going to work on it, we’re going to get as much of it as we can this year. We’ll continue the process next year and make sure this generation is not permanently impacted by COVID. That’s our goal.”

Enrollment is down 2 percent this year, something that Wilson said could also at least partially be attributed to the pandemic.

As of August, the district had 1,255 students, down from 1,280 last year. Despite the decrease, Wilson said the district maintains a healthy enrollment that is within the amount that was budgeted.

As for the number of remote learners versus those attending in person, schools saw a lot of back and forth during the first few weeks of the school year.

This was due in part to the fact that families were given a grace period while deciding on their preferred learning option. Some students also had to change from in-person to remote learning after testing positive or being quarantined for the virus.

As of Sept. 11, 8.6 percent of the students at Summit Hill Elementary School had chosen at-home instruction. Howe Intermediate School reported 13.3 percent at-home learners.

Howe Middle School’s number was 17.5 percent, while Howe High School reported that 17 percent of students had chosen the remote option.

Since the beginning of the school year, two staff member and two students had tested positive for the virus. Two other staff members had to be quarantined due to exposure, as well as 21 students.

Despite the cases, Wilson said the numbers were better than he anticipated, quickly knocking on wood to avoid the proverbial jinx.

“I’m pleasantly surprised to be wrong on that,” he said.

Howe Middle School Principal Clay Wilson gives the school board an update on his campus during the Sept. 21 Howe ISD Board of Trustees meeting.