SALISBURY – A review of school system statistics this week highlighted a decrease in enrollment and grade point averages during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. Rick Briggs, Assistant Superintendent for Student and Family Services Kim Miles and Chief Finance and Operations Officer Micah Stauffer presented the Wicomico County Board of Education with an update on grade point averages, enrollment, attendance and personal protective equipment (PPE) supply for the 2020-2021 academic year.
As Wicomico County students transition back to hybrid in-person learning, Superintendent Dr. Donna Hanlin said she wanted the assistant superintendents to provide an overview of school system metrics.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work, she said, “and we still have a lot of work to do.”
Miles told board members this week fall enrollment in Wicomico County Public Schools had decreased from 15,203 students in 2019 to 14,354 in 2020. She added that the number of students enrolled in homeschooling had increased.
“Some are students who came from Wicomico County Public Schools into homeschooling and some are students who came from other educational settings in Wicomico County and transitioned to homeschooling,” she said. “As we see this decrease, this is what we’re seeing with other school systems across our state, and perhaps beyond, as well.”
High school enrollment in the fall decreased 2% while elementary school enrollment decreased 10%, Miles said. Middle school enrollment, however, was up by 1.3%.
She also noted that officials continue to monitor attendance and work with families to address areas of concern. According to school system data, 12 schools reported a year-to-date attendance rate of 90% to 95%, while six schools reported an attendance rate of greater than 95% and seven schools reported an attendance rate of less than 90%.
“We are very much focused on the attendance of students …,” she said. “Attendance is what leads us to opportunities for engagement and the opportunities for success.”
Briggs told board members this week a review of school year data also highlighted the pandemic’s effect on academic achievement.
“We know that while some students have been thriving in a virtual learning environment, others are not meeting the success we would like,” he said.
Briggs noted first-term grade point averages (GPA) decreased in every grade level when compared to prior years.
“You can see that we indeed saw a decline in average GPA across the board, with the largest decreases occurring in grades 5 through 7,” he said. “Teachers, counselors and administrators are continuing to closely examine their school-level data and are strategically targeting students needing additional supports and interventions through tutoring opportunities on Wednesdays and after school.”
Briggs said that as the transition to hybrid in-person learning continues, those students would receive additional support within the classroom. He added the school system will also provide learning opportunities to students over the summer months.
“We are extremely focused on addressing any learning gaps caused by the pandemic during this second semester,” he said. “And during this same time, we’re planning for a variety of summer learning opportunities to ensure students have the skills and knowledge to be successful moving forward.”
Briggs also provided board members with the number of students planning to return to the classroom in the hybrid format. According to school system data, 5,918 students in prekindergarten through 12th grade have indicated they would return to school.
“Keeping in mind we have about 1,100 students per grade level, in the elementary grades the percentage of students returning is about 45% to 50% while in the secondary grades it’s smaller with about 30% to 35% of students wishing to return,” he said.