Schools Balance Students' Mental, Academic Needs After Losing More Classroom Time

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Students are headed back to school this week after the winter storm, but with many students already struggling academically during the pandemic, will schools have to extend the days students are in school? 

It seems like it's been one thing after another, whether a school building was flooded out or not. School leaders say chances are the winter storm has led to students' learning level taking another hit.

"We're just trying to provide them a quality education on the scenarios we're dealing with but again focusing as much on their mental state as we are on teaching the basics of arithmetic, reading or English," Birdville ISD spokesperson Mark Thomas said.

Schools everywhere said the mental stress and worry we all faced last week was tough on kids, and that losing five to seven days of instruction couldn't have come at a worse time.

"Any loss of time is detrimental, and so that's been our whole strategy and process of thinking of how we mitigate this learning loss process and approach," Dallas ISD Chief of School Leadership Orlando Riddick said.

Every day matters when it comes to catching up from losses students have fought all year, but school leaders everywhere say as much as they need to add more time to the calendar, they're not sure if it's the right decision for mental health.

"We worry about everyone's mental health right now almost as much as we do academic progress," Corsicana ISD Superintendent Diane Frost said. If students aren't mentally prepared to learn, it's hard to accomplish what we need in the classroom."

Fort Worth ISD said it was still assessing its situation, as are many suburban schools. Dallas ISD said the changes it made weeks ago, allowing them to start the next school year earlier, should give them the flexibility to tackle the learning loss while still giving students a mental breather.

Most school districts NBC 5 spoke with didn't support adding to the calendar based on last week, but continuing to plug away at the losses, and taking tests to gauge how far students need to catch up. 

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