McDonald County School District addresses pandemic learning gap

PINEVILLE, Mo –When the pandemic forced us all inside, we had to get creative to stay in touch while staying safe.

For schools, this meant transitioning to online learning.

“A lot of parents really struggled with things virtually, and I’m also a speech and language pathologist, and doing speech and language therapy online with a preschool child is not a very easy thing to do,” said  Jennifer Tinsley, E.C.S.E coordinator for McDonald County Schools. 

Many found this annoying or difficult, but for children in the early development stages, this transition back into the classroom left them with crucial gaps in their education.

“They really didn’t have good experiences during that time where they’re really soaking in the learning, and they’ve missed out,” said Shelly Emmert, a preschool teacher at Pineville Primary School.

Teachers like Emmert see these first hand in their students.

“In my classroom alone this year, I usually have one child that maybe needs speech articulation, I have ten this year, so that’s over a fifty percent increase in my classroom,” Emmert said.  

To bridge this learning gap, the McDonald County school district is utilizing their parents as teachers and child find programs.

“Our early childhood special education program and it’s designed to address the needs of younger children that have developmental delays,” said Tinsley. 

The parents as teachers program work alongside the school district to ensure that preschool children meet their learning goals and are prepared to go into kindergarten.

“They meet with parents and they do activities with them, they explain what learning levels or what checklists you need to make sure–Is your child holding a pencil correctly? Are they able to sing the alphabet?” Emmert explained.

With masks also playing a factor in speech and language development skills, these programs aim to get kids on the right track.

For more information on both of these programs, you can call the McDonald County school district’s office at (417) 845-3321.