Schools

CHS, Strickland look to help students affected by pandemic

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, students and their families have endured what may seem like a never-ending season of change.

Distractions in and out of the classroom brought on by these uncertainties have resulted in “gaps” in education throughout Crawfordsville schools, particularly at the high school, where first-year principal Jay Strickland has implemented a multi-tier system of support, or MTSS, to bring struggling students up to speed.

Presenting at the district’s public meeting Thursday, Strickland explained how the system can help students overcome the burnout.

“COVID has really drop-kicked education,” he told the board. “The top goal is to decrease the number of failing grades, to increase and encourage teachers to do a little bit more differentiation and provide some more in-class interventions, keeping students on grade level with credits.”

Absences due to illness, mental fatigue and anxiety are largely responsible for the gaps. However, the program’s collective intervention system with parents and educators of all backgrounds aims to thwart these critical situations as they arise.

“If you get off to a rough start, it’s really hard to recover,” Strickland said. “As teachers refer students to us, we take them to kind of the next level and create some individual plans ... to try to decrease those gaps and hopefully help catch them up.”

Learning assessments performed early in the school year is a key component of the soon-to-be-launched MTSS program. From there, educators can develop tiers of intervention which can be increased or decreased depending on student need through data collection, parent involvement and a school-wide approach as to what is expected.

Freshmen, who Strickland said are especially susceptible to the anxiety change can bring, have been aided by the “Dream Team” since November last year. The team, a sort of predecessor and partner program to MTSS, has been led by Assistant Principal Mark Melton.

“We offer homework help for them. We have focus groups. We try to meet with them and contact parents and track their progress,” Strickland said. “Freshman year is tough. I would argue it’s the most difficult transition year of your school experience.”

And though the Dream Team and MTSS may create more work for teachers, Strickland said their passion as educators has allowed them to embrace it.

“We have to work together for the benefit of the student,” he said. “I’m grateful that we have a great team of people here. They care about their students but they also care about each other. I think they view it as an opportunity to really dive deep and provide additional support, but it’s also an opportunity for them to work and collaborate more with each other.

“It’s a true blessing. I just couldn’t be more excited about the direction we’re heading.”

Those interested in more information about the Dream Team or the upcoming MTSS program may do so by contacting the high school at 765-362-2340.

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