'Summer slide' might be worse because of school closures

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools is set to start classes next school year on August 25. With the district moving to remote learning on March 18 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students won't be in classrooms for more than five months. 

This has some education experts worried the "summer slide" will be worse this year. This is when students lose some reading and math skills over the summer when they are not in class. 

Ene-Kaja Chippendale is the founder of Focus on Learning, a tutoring and test prep center in Columbia. She said the extended time out of classrooms could be problematic if students don't continue with learning activities. 

"There's no question that students who don't do anything academic during that period will slide, and the slide will be further right now," she said. 

But Chippendale said parents can help prevent the slide by encouraging learning outside of traditional classwork. 

"I don't think you have to be a formal teacher all the time," Chippendale said. "You can do things like involve kids in discussion, ask their opinions and get involved in world issues." 

Former high school math teacher Gary Moss said parents shouldn't worry too much about classes moving to remote formats this spring because he said most teachers cover a majority of their curriculum before spring break.

Moss also said teachers build review into their fall curriculum, which takes the "summer slide" into account. 

"[The slide] is going to be there, and it may be a little bit worse this year, but every math class has that already built into it," he said. "When you show up with your fall math class, every math class begins with review of last year." 

Columbia Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said last Monday that district curriculum coordinators are working to adjust curriculum to make up for material students didn't learn this spring because of the switch to remote learning. 

Chippendale and Moss said parents and students can prevent some of the slide by taking advantage of the lessons and materials teachers are providing through the end of the semester. 

Once summer hits, Chippendale said reading is key to students retaining skills. She also recommends writing and using online resources, like educational YouTube videos. 

CPS has not announced any changes to summer school classes yet. Classes are set to start on June 2.