Repeating second grade: Kids being held back as they return to school amid COVID-19

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As kids are going back to school, some parents and guardians are choosing to hold their child back a grade, transfer their child to another school or both. 

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. more than a year and a half ago, many states went on lockdown and schools were required to move to remote learning without much warning. 

For some students, the switch significantly impacted their education.

Preston Grinstead, from Las Vegas, told Fox News that his 8-year-old son struggled with all the computer programs and software he had to use to do his school work. 

Preston Grinstead, from Las Vegas, told Fox News he decided to transfer his son Noah to a private school and have him repeat second grade after struggling with remote learning last year.
(Courtesy of Preston Grinstead)

“A lot of the assignments required uploading documents, scanning things, using Dropbox, emailing teachers,” Grinstead told Fox. “[His] reading level was about what you would expect of a first grader. So to expect him to be able to do that when they haven’t even really begun digging into how to use a computer, is very unrealistic.”

The lockdowns started when Noah was finishing up his first grade year. He then spent the majority of his second grade year learning remotely, Grinstead said.

During that time, Noah needed constant attention and help from Grinstead and his reading fell behind, according to Grinstead. 

“He was so frustrated,” Grinstead said. “He basically felt like he was an ‘idiot.’ And that’s a quote from him.”

Grinstead added that Noah “basically didn’t get anything out of his entire second grade year.”

“He’s at a tremendous disadvantage,” Grinstead said. “I feel like these are some of the most important years of school because it’s the fundamentals and basics … We were worried it would create a snowball effect over the next several years.”

Grinstead told FOX: "He’s at a tremendous disadvantage. I feel like these are some of the most important years of school because it’s the fundamentals and basics."
(Courtesy of Preston Grinstead)

That’s why Grinstead decided to transfer Noah to a private school, which continued in-person learning in the last year.

Now, Noah will repeat second grade for the 2021-2022 school year, Grinstead said.

“In the event lockdowns come back into place, which it’s very possible, there’s no coming back if he misses two years,” Grinstead said. “And I couldn’t take that risk. So, we’re sucking it up and paying to send him to private school.”

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Grinstead said Noah took the news “better than expected,” though he didn’t want to transfer schools with the notion he’d have to start over and make new friends. 

A December report from McKinsey & Company estimated that students fell behind an average of three months on math and one and a half months on reading. However, students of color fell behind even more, the report found.
(iStock)

“He does understand why he has to do second grade again,” Grinstead said. “I told him it’s not his fault and he did kind of understand that. I said, ‘You didn’t learn anything. Yes, you got work done, but you did not actually learn anything.’”

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Jane Minovskaya, from Charlotte, North Carolina, had to have a similar conversation with her two nephews, Nathan, 7, and Dayan, 6, earlier this year. 

Minovskaya told Fox News that when her nephews – who she cares for – started school in the fall of 2020, Dayan was assigned to first grade, but she thinks he probably should have been placed in kindergarten.

“All the kids in his class virtually were almost writing and reading and he was behind,” Minovskaya told Fox. 

She added that for both boys, much of their school time was spent in virtual waiting rooms and doing assignments on their own. 

Jane Minovskaya, from Charlotte, North Carolina, told Fox News that she decided to transfer her two nephews to a charter school earlier this year after they struggled with a year of remote schooling. 
(Courtesy of Jane Minovskaya)

“What 5-year-old do you know that’s going to do work independently?” Minovskaya noted, adding that it was even harder for Dayan, who couldn’t read. 

Meanwhile, Nathan fell behind in math and required additional tutoring, according to Minovskaya. 

Grinstead and Minovskaya’s children aren’t the only ones falling behind academically in the pandemic. 

A December report from McKinsey & Company estimated that students fell behind an average of three months on math and one and a half months on reading in 2020. Meanwhile, an October 2020 study from Stanford University found that students in some states lost up to a year in reading and more than a year in math during the 2019-2020 school year.

Because her nephews struggled with the e-learning model, Minovskaya decided to transfer them to a charter school in February. She placed Nathan in the first grade and Dayan in kindergarten for that semester so that when they started school last month, Nathan was repeating second grade and Dayan was repeating first grade. 

When she told the boys they would be repeating grades, Minovskaya said they took it well. 

“It was great,” Minovskaya said. “We don’t hide anything from them and we explained to them why we’re doing this, because they struggled.”

Minovskaya said in-person charter school better suited her nephews versus a “just get it done” mentality they often had amid virtual learning.

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