School & District Management

Student Mental Health and Learning Loss Continue to Worry Principals

By Denisa R. Superville — January 15, 2021 3 min read
Student sitting alone with empty chairs around her.

Almost a year into the coronavirus pandemic, nearly half of elementary school leaders say they haven’t received training on proper coronavirus health screening in schools from health experts.

And the same percentage—49 percent—say they still do temperature checks for those entering school buildings or boarding school buses — even though those have been deemphasized among health experts as useful screening practice. A higher percentage— 78 percent — use at-home symptom screening which allow parents to review their children’s and family members’ symptoms and possible exposure to positive coronavirus cases.

Those are among the findings in a survey released this week from the National Association of Elementary School Principals in its third poll of lower and middle school leaders since schools began shutting down last March because of the pandemic.

The results are similar to some recent reports on educators’ perspectives on pressing issues and continuing challenges for school leaders during this unusual school year. Among them: the need for additional mental health supports for students, troubling attendance rates among students learning remotely, and a call for more financial assistance to help schools and districts assist students who are behind academically.

The results of this survey reaffirm the enormous challenges that principals are facing in trying to lead learning communities in the middle of a pandemic.

Remote learning attendance—especially for students who don’t have the internet at home or who had attendance issues before the pandemic—continues to worry school and district leaders, the survey results show. Eighty-two percent of school leaders who responded said the pandemic had impacted student attendance.

And while those attendance issues are likely to compound learning loss—particularly among the most disadvantaged students—school leaders’ responses to the survey indicate that they didn’t have the staff or intervention programs in place to help those students get back on track. Only 8 percent thought they were setting aside significant sums of money to assist students who’re behind.

Schools have also adapted to the unusual 2020-21 school year to reflect changes in their communities:

  • 51 percent had adjusted their main mode of schooling since the start of the academic year—most likely a reflection of rising or declining coronavirus cases in the community as well as evolving science on how COVID-19 spreads and children’s role in spreading the disease.

  • Nearly all—99 percent—said they had developed quarantine and isolation protocols for staff and students.

  • 95 percent said they had ways to get reliable information and data on COVID-19 in their state and region.

  • And 95 percent said their staff wore masks at all times in school, while 91 percent said their students wore masks.

Outdoor Classrooms Not Widely Used

On the other hand, many schools have not improved ventilation. Only 59 percent said they’ve increase ventilation in classrooms, and few (23 percent) are holding some or all classes outdoors. (The survey did not ask why that was the case, but many schools can’t hold classes outdoor because of the weather, and ventilation upgrades are expensive, especially in old school buildings.)

The survey results are based on responses from 860 NAESP members.

NAESP Executive Director L. Earl Franks said the results “reaffirm the enormous challenges that principals are facing in trying to lead learning communities in the middle of a pandemic.”

“Whether it is implementing procedures to keep staff and students safe, trying to ensure reliable home internet access for students, addressing student learning loss, or boosting mental health and trauma sensitivity supports for students, principals are having to do more with less,” Franks said.

Franks added that while the recently passed coronavirus relief package would go a long way toward helping educators address some of those challenges, schools need more financial assistance in the longer term to counteract the fallout from the pandemic in schools.

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Arizona School Data Analyst - (AZVA)
Arizona, United States
K12 Inc.
Software Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Proposal Writer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion New Resource Tracks School System Reopening
The Return to Learn Tracker identifies the current instructional model of all regular public school districts with three or more schools.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management San Francisco School Board Pauses Renaming 44 Schools, Promises to Consult Historians
The renaming of 44 schools in the San Francisco Unified School District is apparently being put on hold after intense blowback.
Greg Keraghosian
1 min read
A pedestrian walks below a sign for Dianne Feinstein Elementary School in San Francisco, on Dec. 17, 2020. The San Francisco Unified School District put the renaming of 44 schools, including Dianne Feinstein Elementary School, on hold after local and national blowback.
A pedestrian walks below a sign for Dianne Feinstein Elementary School in San Francisco, on Dec. 17, 2020. The San Francisco Unified School District put the renaming of 44 schools, including Dianne Feinstein Elementary School, on hold after local and national blowback.<br/><br/>
Jeff Chiu/AP
School & District Management Superintendent Who Led During COVID-19 School Shutdowns Gets Top Honors
Michelle Reid of Washington state's Northshore district, one of the very first to close schools last March, was named National Superintendent of the Year.
3 min read
Michelle Reid, superintendent of the Northshore district in Washington
Michelle Reid, the superintendent of the Northshore district in Washington, was named National Superintendent of the Year.
courtesy of AASA, the School Superintendents Association
School & District Management Is Lunchtime the 'Weak Link' in School Reopening Plans?
It's risky when students are inside and unmasked, experts say. Here are five ways to mitigate that risk and make in-school meals safer.
11 min read
Elementary students in Brownsville, Texas, eat a socially distanced lunch in the school cafeteria. Experts say there are ways to mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19 even when kids take their masks off to eat.
Elementary students in Brownsville, Texas, eat a socially distanced lunch in the school cafeteria. Experts say there are ways to mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19 when kids take their masks off to eat.
Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald via AP