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Dysart working to address behavioral learning loss

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The coronavirus pandemic has drastically impacted academics with students.

And Dysart Unified School District officials are realizing behavioral learning loss and are working to address the challenge.

Corey Montano, director of exceptional student services and Karen Winterstein, director of student services are working through each support alongside each campus to help improve student success.

“When we looked at needs for our classroom academic needs are being addressed for learning loss, but what we have seen a drastic up-tick in is behavior of students impacting academic learning for students in classrooms,” Winterstein said.

Looking at this year’s third graders, Winterstein said last year was the year of COVID-19 then in first grade these same students only experienced three-quarters of a regular school year. The only full school year this group has experienced was kindergarten.

She said many third graders in the district today didn’t have a classroom learning environment from the end of first grade through second grade.

And for fifth graders, the last full year was second grade.

“Many students are displaying challenging behaviors since they haven’t been in a structured learning environment for several years and that is impacting their ability to maintain and manage their behavior effecting the ability of teachers to teach and students to learn,” Winterstein said.

Winterstein said district officials are seeing various needs in the classroom with behavioral outbursts and meltdowns, which requires more of the teacher’s attention.

These behaviors escalate to where the teacher cannot handle it and require additional support so students can learn and teachers can teach.

Montano said there is additional support to help classrooms and students. There are 20 behavior technicians helping students, 11 behavior coaches to cover multiple campuses, but are not immediately available unless at that particular campus.

There are also high level behavioral analysts to deal with functional behavior assessments.

“We are proposing we are going to work a little smarter and try to get our support at more of the site level. We would like to make sure we have our highly trained folks working with students and are proposing a reduced number of behavioral techs,” she said.

Reducing to just eight creates the same position named as student support technicians and those would be site based and available immediately as support is needed. In addition, the current 11 behavior coaches are more site based as well. That number would increase form 11 to 19 and restore four analysts.

The proposed changes would be paid for using ESSER Funds, which governing board president Dawn Densmore was concerned about, since the money is not guaranteed year after year. The funding is available through fiscal year 2024 and at that time district officials will have to take a look at where funding would come from moving forward.

Reach reporter at jjimenez@iniusa.org.

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