Central Florida schools work to fill pandemic learning gap

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Closing the pandemic learning gap is a challenge school districts in Central Florida are facing this school year.

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Channel 9 spoke with the new superintendent in Orange County about how they plan to get students back up to speed.

The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted students’ lives.


Schools shut down and most switched to virtual learning.

The impact on academics is significant.

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“Trying to help our students who are still dealing with that loss of learning that occurred as a result of the pandemic is a priority for all of us,” said Orange County Public Schools new superintendent Maria Vazquez.

Vazquez said one of the biggest concerns is the COVID-19 slide.

OCPS used federal relief money to hire 900 intervention teachers to get students caught up.

“Those are teacher positions that are aimed to provide additional support in the classroom for tier one instruction,” Vazquez said.

Florida standards assessments’ latest results from 2022 shows statewide, 53% of third graders passed the state’s reading test, which is down from 58% in 2019.

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“When you’re looking at maybe half of school aged children are behind,” said mental health specialist, Dwight Bain. “These are traumatic times.”

Bain said the issue is deeper than education.

He says kids are still suffering from the psychological effects of the pandemic.

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“The child may have been doing school by Zoom, no access to a peer group feeling lonely, feeling isolated, feeling detached and for many, feeling very scared inside,” Bain said.

OCPS is also adding more mental health resources and enhancing tutoring options to help students still struggling.

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