Provide your assessment of the top 2-3 issues currently facing students and schools across your State as a result of or in response to the COVID-19 pandemic including, to the extent possible, data illustrating why these are the most critical and/or most widespread issues facing schools and students.
While students, families, and schools across Pennsylvania currently face many issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, PDE has identified the following three as most critical:
- Student and teacher mental health supports: Mental health and social-emotional wellbeing were by far the most mentioned priorities of stakeholders speaking to the needs of the most impacted students. This focus was often paired with recognition of trauma and the importance of student safety and belongingness at school. Teachers were said to both need instruction in providing mental health supports and trauma-informed approaches for students, as well as personal support for their own mental health and well-being in the face of burnout.
- Connectivity and equity of access in remote learning, leading to instructional and learning inequities: This issue includes equity of access to reliable, high-speed internet and access to adequate devices for participating fully in school. Another issue related to remote learning was a lack of teacher training and online resources to improve student engagement in remote learning situations.
- Staffing shortages and a lack of capacity in school and county supports: These shortages include teachers and professional support staff, specialized staff (e.g., multilingual, sign and Braille capable, culturally responsive staff); school and county mental health professionals; substitute teachers; paraprofessionals; transportation staff; custodial staff; school nurses and health staff; and school administrators.