EDITORIAL: Kids are worth the investment

EDITORIAL: Kids are worth the investment

Now that we are more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, with more and more people getting vaccinated every day, it is only natural to wonder what long-term effects the virus, or the vaccine, may have on the health of the general public.

But the pandemic has also delivered a body blow to K-12 education, and another important concern is what long-term effects the prolonged shutdown may have on its future. What  impact has the pandemic had on students and their families, and how could that lead to long-term changes in how the school day and the school year look in this state?

In fact, the pandemic has had such a drastic and negative effect on learning that state leadership is even looking at rethinking the agrarian calendar that has always been the basis of the school year in Connecticut. 

“I think we've got to rethink the 12 months,” Gov. Ned Lamont said. “I think it could make a big difference and I hope this is a year we can experiment.”

We commend the governor for this clean-slate thinking. After all, our school year has always revolved around farming, going back centuries to when many children were needed to work in the fields in the summer. Back in 1800, more than 80 percent of Americans worked in agriculture; in 1900, nearly 40 percent; today, that figure is around 1 percent. Isn’t it time for a change?

That was one of the topics Lamont discussed recently with federal, state and local education officials in a roundtable to consider the future of education and how they plan to use the tens of millions of dollars in federal funds intended to combat pandemic-based learning loss.

The discussion focused on this summer and the next school year and beyond, The Associated Press reported.

Absenteeism has been heavy during the pandemic, for a number of reasons, and school superintendents suggested that some of the federal money from the American Rescue Plan be put toward tutoring, online learning and off-hours education programs.

Lamont intends to use $10.7 million in previous federal funding to set up summer learning programs designed to help students who have fallen behind catch up.

The state’s LEAP (Learner Engagement and Attendance Program) also will send mentors and counselors directly into the homes of struggling students in 15 hard-hit districts, including Meriden’s, to work with their families.

The goal of LEAP, according to the governor’s official website, is to:

■Bridge students back to their school communities for the final months of this school year;■Support student enrollment in upcoming summer camps and summer learning programs; and■Facilitate for families in need a seamless transition back into their school communities for the 2021-22 school year.

If federal dollars can “turbocharge” LEAP, as U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal suggests, then let’s do it.

It’s been a terrible year for K-12 education, so government needs to do all it can to help kids catch up.

They’re worth the investment.

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