As schools head back to the classroom, many people have questions about what, if anything, will change in schools after the pandemic.
WCPO 9 anchor Julie O'Neill talked with Lakota Local Schools Superintendent Matt Miller about the upcoming school year, requiring students to wear masks indoors and how the district will handle pandemic setbacks.
JO: How much catching-up time do you think you need, generally speaking, for kids?
MM: There's one train of thought that calls that learning loss. I prefer to use the term school loss, because it's not just the academic piece. It's the relationships. It's the sports. It's the band. So I don't think we're going to be able to answer that yet until all the kids are back.
We are in a fortunate position in Lakota that our kids were at least offered in-person learning from the get-go last year. Last year at our peak we were at about 4,000 students that were on our virtual learning option. This coming school year we're down to about 350.
JO: Do you foresee some kids continuing with just online going forward, whether COVID's a threat or not?
MM: Yeah, I do think that there is a sliver of our student population that will want to continue to learn, the virtual learning option, moving forward. It's actually something at Lakota we've been talking about doing. Just providing as an option for our families even pre-COVID.
JO: What about the emotional peace for students? What are you doing here to prop them up?
MM: We have a pretty robust guidance program for our kids, and we actually have added to the social-emotional learning components in a class for our K through 6 kids, so we brought that online because we knew we were going to have some issues we were going to have to address.
One of the other things that Lakota has done is we've ramped up our therapy dog program for our kids. We have seven therapy dogs now for the district. The therapy dogs are trained to de-escalate, to help kids, and adults for that matter, with anxiety and things like that.
JO: All right, what do you want to say to the kids, to the staff as they head to school today?
MM: I think the biggest thing that I'm excited about with this new school year is welcoming our kids back. This just feels like a different year in terms of how different it had been in the past year and a half. Our kids do amazing things. I don't think our kids get enough credit for their accomplishments and what they do, and certainly that can also transcend into the teachers and staff. I'm just excited to welcome people back. Let's go.