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Online learning took a heavy toll on students. It’s a ‘team effort’ to get them back on track.

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 5:18 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Online learning left thousands of students behind ― and teachers, counselors and mentors had their work cut out for them to help Hawaii’s keiki.

The state Department of Education doesn’t have figures yet for how many students missed the mark for graduation, and officials hope that summer learning programs will help fill the gap.

But according to DOE data from March, about 1 in 4 seniors weren’t on track to get their diploma. Many younger kids were having trouble, too. Some 35% of middle schoolers were behind in mathematics and 40% in language arts, according to the DOE data.

One senior from Waianae High School said a number of issues contributed to the learning decline.

“I think a lot of students struggle with mental health,” said Emma Tilitile, a senior who graduated from Waianae High. “Not only because of the workload, we missed out on a lot. Things like dances, prom. ”

Tilitile is also on the senior student council and a student representative for PTSA and the School Community Council. She said thankfully there was supportive staff to help colleagues out.

”They tried to adjust classes so it would suit students better,” she said. “And teachers were very understanding with whatever their students’ circumstances were.”

One of the ways students of all grades got help was through after-school services, like the Boys and Girls Club.

“I think having that additional adult support or caring mentor to encourage them that they can do it helps a lot,” she said. “This last year and a half have been super difficult.”

The clubs closed and went virtual, and when they reopened they had those who were struggling the most back first.

“During our wellness calls, we would ask about who was having trouble with online lessons,” said Paddy Kauhane, the president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii.

“And so we use that sort of triage method to decide who could come to the club.”

And for seniors who made it to graduation, victory was extra sweet.

“Being able to provide a graduation that was meaningful to the families here on campus, where they could see their child getting their diploma,” said James Sunday, the principal of Radford High School.

“I think it was very memorable for them.”

He added that getting students to graduation day required lots of communication with parents, teachers and the students themselves.

“And then providing them with resources, whether it be additional coursework, tutoring support,” he said. “It’s a team effort to make sure that the student knows exactly what they need to do to graduate.”

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