This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
Young students are struggling to learn to read, and teachers are burning out as Colorado schools slog through the ninth month of the pandemic.
Those issues emerged as top concerns in a survey of 140 superintendents conducted by the nonprofit Colorado Education Initiative and the Colorado Department of Education. The needs assessment updates a similar survey conducted in the spring and reflects the challenges of educating students learning both in person and remotely while managing conflicting health and safety guidance and frequent quarantines.
The findings highlight the problems school districts need to solve this year — and the potentially long-lasting consequences of a year or more of disrupted learning. State education officials will use the findings to provide more targeted support to school districts, and legislators could use them to consider policy changes.
In the spring, superintendents rated the mental health of older students as their top student concern and better support for online instruction as their top concern for staff. In this survey, staffing shortages and teacher mental health loomed largest for district leaders.
Teachers this year are charged with enforcing new safety protocols, catching up students who fell behind in the spring, teaching students in their classrooms and students on the other side of a screen at the same time, and then pivoting to remote learning on short notice when a class has to quarantine.
“Our teachers and staff are stretched thin, and we can’t offer them any relief,” one superintendent in northwest Colorado wrote. “We don’t have enough subs, and I fear we will begin to lose teachers and other staff. The emotional stress our teachers and especially our leaders are under is vast, and I don’t know how long we can endure.”