ALIEF, Texas - The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting students and enrollment rates being submitted to the Texas Education Agency.
Alief Superintendent HD Chambers has been in the education business for over 35 years and says COVID-19 is presenting unique challenges. But he finds it extremely troubling when it is affecting a child’s developmental years.
With enrollment down across the board, districts are now trying to figure out how to re-engage students and parents.
For Alief ISD, which covers southwest Houston, enrollment is down 8% which means 3,400 to 3,500 students have not re-enrolled this fall.
“We are trying to help parents understand.. let us pick your child up in a bus.. educate them…like a regular school year, while you deal with your family situations,” said Chambers. “But there is a reasonable number of families that have not done that because their fear of the virus is greater.”
The school district has become creative in dealing with the new virus. Putting boots on the ground.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck issue, we had over 100 volunteers that spent 3 to 4 days knocking on doors,” said Chambers. “We found we found was most parents just decided not to send their child to school. They decided learning virtually is not possible for the 4-5-year-old.”
Alief ISD telling FOX 26 the largest group of students who have not enrolled or are not participating in online classes are pre-k through elementary students.
Impacting their formative developmental years.
“This is where it’s significant, human brain development is taking place at such a rapid rate if we miss a year or half a year of quality education … we run the risk of a generation of 5-6-year-olds missing out on critical parts of their lives,” said Chambers.
With enrollment down, it also means funding is in jeopardy for public schools, which could eventually impact employees.
State leaders have been working with districts to fund the fall semester under what’s called a “hold harmless” for the next 18 weeks.
“Our concern we are probably going to need relief beyond December going into the spring semester bc it appears that many of these students who have not enrolled are not going to at the rate we thought,” said Chambers.
Bridging for tomorrow is a community organization trying to catch these students falling through the cracks.
They are launching a new program called the Learning Lab on Monday.