Oct. 9—One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many area children have gotten behind in their schooling. While some students have thrived in distance learning, overall, most do not perform as well at home.
For many families — especially those who live with those who experience preexisting conditions — distance-learning was, and still is, essential to their livelihood.
Many students who did distance learning throughout the 2020-2021 school year have returned to in-person learning. Some of them did not advance grade levels with their classes, and many of those who did advance are not meeting state standards. For these reasons, after-school tutoring has become essential to the way schools operate.
After-school tutoring in Tahlequah Public Schools is operated by the Boys & Girls Club of Tahlequah. Tanya Jones is executive director of Elementary Education and Special Programs at TPS, and she oversees the B&GC for the school district.
"Tutoring is more important today than ever because of the loss of instruction over the last year and a half. Many students were home for extended periods of time, whether we were closed or they chose to homeschool, or they were quarantined or ill," Jones said.
She explained that even in non-pandemic circumstances, tutoring is an important element of public schools because not all students learn at the same pace. Tutoring allows students to receive additional instruction, or to have concepts taught to them a second time by another person who isn't their teacher. Because so many kids are behind, they are using tutoring to help kids to keep up.
"Right now, more than anything else, it is to help kids get back on grade level," she said. "It's a fact. It's where we are. As test scores come out, and they are not where we want them to be, it matters. All that matters is we take what we have and move from there."
TPS secured 21st Century Grants for each of its three elementary schools, plus Tahlequah Middle School and Briggs. They use these grants to fund their after-school program with the B&GC.
Tahlequah High School does not have a 21st Century Grant, so THS uses money its received for a Title VI Indian Education Grant to fund its after-school program. They receive money based on the number of students who fill out ED 506 Indian Student Eligibility Certification Forms, but students who participate in the after-school program do not need to hold a Certificate of Indian Blood or identify as Native American or Indigenous.
To sign up for B&GC after-school tutoring, parents need to fill a form, which is found at each site where the program is available, or the school board on Water Street. Administration will review the form and place the student in a classroom at the site where he or she attends school.
It may take a couple of days from the time parents apply, because TPS is short on after-school teachers. Jones said it takes time for administration to shuffle around classrooms.
Each site is overseen by a coordinator from the district, under which they oversee teachers and volunteers who work with the students. Some volunteers are college or even high school students.
"Most of our staff works during the daytime. We fill in the gaps with high school and college kids. Usually, we could always use more help. Following this pandemic, our teachers are worn out. Those who would have worked in the past need a break," Jones said. "We are having a harder time staffing the program than we usually do. Not enough that we've had to cut numbers, but we could add staff if we could get teachers to work."
You can help
Members of the community can apply to become volunteers, but must first pass a background check. Information about volunteering can be found at the board office.