(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Report cards across the region have taken a sharp dive.
“The hybrid model hasn’t been as positive or effective as we would like for it to have been,” said Dr. Doug Van Zyl, SJSD superintendent.
The COVID-19 pandemic altered how students learn this fall semester. Both the Cameron R-1 School District and the St. Joseph School District offered hybrid and virtual learning, but both superintendents said the nontraditional learning styles resulted in more failing students.
In a normal school year like 2019, SJSD reported 9.3% of all grades were failing or near failing.
For the 2020-21 school year, failing grades more than doubled. The district reported 20.9% of all grades across the district are D's or F's.
“Most everybody is having the same type of struggles because academic learning is best done face-to-face for the majority of students and we haven’t been able to do that," said Dr. Van Zyl.
These numbers for the SJSD focus on secondary education- both virtual and in-person learning, but Dr. Van Zyl said students are academically struggling at all levels.
Dr. Van Zyl said, “But also speaking to our elementary, I know that they are having struggles. Not quite as bad because they are there four days a week."
Students in the SJSD have until January 13th to improve first semester grades. Students started their winter break Friday.
SJSD isn't unique in seeing poorer report cards this semester. Dr. Matt Robinson, Superintendent for Cameron R-1 School District, said they, "probably have more D's and F's at this point in time than we normally would."
For Cameron High School, the district reports 41 D's amongst 32 virtual students and 241 F's for only 67 virtual students.
Dr. Robinson said these numbers are after teacher, counselor and principal intervention. He admits Cameron is struggling with virtual learning, “I’d be sugar coating it if I said it wasn’t. That’s a whole different realm than we’re used to doing just because trying to reach kids that we don’t get to see on a daily basis is very hard.”
Cameron R-1 School District has started asking failing virtual students to return to the classroom.
“And we’ve already seen grades start to improve because of that. We’re opening that option up more second semester,” said Dr. Robinson.
Dr. Robinson reported at one point, Cameron High School had 195 virtual students, but 50 returned to in-person learning over the course of the semester and grades rised "quickly." The district anticipates having less than 60 students high school students enrolled in virtual learning for second semester.
As for SJSD, Dr. Van Zyl said second semester plans will be discussed at their next board meeting Monday.
“There will probably be a pretty good discussion about trying to bring students back in for second semester, but it’s COVID dependent. That’s the caveat that’s always there,” said Dr. Van Zyl.
Both area school districts said the numbers speak for themselves. Students are academically struggling.