Student ‘summer slide’ on studies has turned into a ‘pandemic plummet’ with the future uncertain


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) –Students are struggling to keep up. Some educators described it as a crisis in education.

Enrollment is down and chronic absenteeism is up. Typically, when kids start school in September after a long break teachers will refer to it as a “summer slide.”  Well, this is the “pandemic plummet.”

When March 2020 hit and schools were shutdown statewide.

“Everyone thought it was going to be the two weeks that we had off and we go back, ” said Branford High School Junior, Mareyna McCaughtry.

Her mother said Jennifer McCaughtry said, “I didn’t feel like she was learning a whole lot either because nobody was prepared for this.”

“The teachers were doing the best they could.”

Her bedroom turned into her classroom. Her Spanish grades started to slip.

“It’s hard. I mean I really struggled especially with concentration,” said Mareyna.

Her swim meets changed too. Teams competed in separate pools.

“It’s really tough when you’re not swimming against the other team in the same pool for meets,” said Mareyna.  “I think my mental health slipped during this time. It was hard not seeing friends.”

Teachers felt it too.

“We have lost all ability to do any hands on lab experiments,” said physics teacher, Kristen Record who teaches at Bunnell High School in Stratford. “Right now my classroom is set up with 16 desks.”

Record teaches some of the best and brightest in AP Physics and still some are not showing up to class.

“I do have kids that regularly not logged into class,” said Record. “Even among students that you would assume are the most motivated because they are enrolled in college-level classes, they are having a tough time.”

“I don’t know if I had to have gone through something like this when I was 17 -years old if I would have been as resilient as what I have seen in my classroom and in my school district,” Record.

COVID-19 closed school and remote learning proved difficult. Grades suffered too. In New Haven alone high schoolers who failed five or more classes this winter were four times higher than the year before.

Chronic Absenteeism is up too. Statewide from 2019-2020, it was up to 12 percent from around 10% the year before.

Plus, enrollment is down. Teachers are seeing 14,000 fewer students this school year.

“I would say it’s been a challenging year,” said Coordinator for Drop Out and Truancy.

In New Haven, kindergarten students are the most likely to be chronically absent  That’s why truancy specialists routinely hold “Stay In School” events with the little ones.

“So that’s what we’re doing, engaging, making phone calls, doing home visits. Sending letters. All types of ways,” said Drop-Out Prevention Specialist, Dania Torres.

As she works to get kids back in class, high schoolers eye college concerned about what all this means down the road.

“Everybody’s in the same boat and the colleges realize that,” said Jennifer.

Mareyna is determined to finish strong too.

“I’m working harder, to try and bring them back up.”

News 8’s Mackenzie Maynard will take a closer look at what districts are doing to help students coming up Tuesday at 11 p.m. on News 8.

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