Gov. Hochul has proposed funding for “high impact” tutoring to help students regain educational ground lost during the pandemic. Will it be enough? How are Long Island districts addressing pressures on students?

Long Island’s younger students are in need of extra help to bridge a learning and socialization gap caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, academic experts said Tuesday during a Newsday Live panel discussion.

The event, moderated by Newsday associate editor and columnist Joye Brown, was hosted in response to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recently proposed plan to increase funding for “high-impact” tutoring in response to the pandemic’s effect on young learners.

“We are seeing [middle school] students who are really struggling with executive function skills,” said Kathleen Dunne, counseling and coaching fellow for the Oceanside School District.

Dunne said it’s in areas of prioritizing and setting up a schedule where school staff has seen student development lag. She said middle school parents might consider helping their children organize their backpacks on the weekend, like they might have ordinarily done back “in third grade.”

“We're finding that they kind of skipped some of those formative years because of what happened,” Dunne said.

Many students have also lagged behind socially because of the pandemic, missing out on learning some of the basic skills applied to start conversations or make friends, said social worker Kelly Ureña, program chair for the Long Island Latino Teachers Association and a Valley Stream school board member.

And they aren’t used to raising their hands in class, both educators said.

“We're seeing kids who are very tentative,” Dunne said, pointing to data that shows more than 22% of students today are struggling with anxiety. “They've kind of lost their mojo.”

In addition to current middle school students, Ureña counted students in pre-K or kindergarten during the pandemic among those most affected. Working with parents is critical, she said.

“Parents also need to know that we're still on the same team … and the school is going to support them,” Ureña said.

Hochul’s budget released Feb. 1 brings the total increase in foundation aid to the state’s public schools over three years to more than $5.6 billion or 30%. The governor said high-impact tutoring will be a spending priority.

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