Education

One Houston Principal Reflects On Student Learning Loss, Family Struggles During COVID-19

Lupe Hernandez, the principal of the San Francisco Nativity Academy said it’s been a tough year for her school’s educators, students and parents. The private Christian school educates students from low-income Central American immigrant families.

After a year of interrupted learning during COVID-19, Kindergarteners pose for graduation photos at the San Francisco Nativity Academy of Houston.

School closures and the transition to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a toll on academic achievement for students of all grade levels. As this school year winds down, many educators in Houston are strategizing on how to catch kids back up.

Principal Lupe Hernandez of Houston’s San Francisco Nativity Academy in Southwest Houston is gearing up for extended classes for her elementary and Pre-K students. She hopes these kids — from low-income Central American immigrant families — will catch up on lost reading and math skills through extra hours of schooling.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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How was student learning interrupted by the pandemic?

The kids who did finish pre-K, and are now in Kinder, normally would know all of their letters and all of their sounds and know that word-sound difference. And they did not have that. I would say the months that they missed, definitely showed up in their reading and in their math, and especially in their social skills. COVID definitely impacted their learning, it was definitely delayed. However, we just finished our end-of-year testing — 100% of our kids showed growth. We were looking for that. That was just phenomenal that they all showed growth and we were just so happy about that.

How will you catch your students up next year from learning loss during the pandemic?

The whole month of June, we go to school for three weeks, 15 days, and that’s our extended year program. It is required that they attend school in June. Normally, it’s been more of a review, relaxed atmosphere, we do fun things, fly kites. On Fridays, we would have fun days. This year, it will be totally different. It will be very focused. It will be only reading and math, and that’s going to be our catch-up time to make up for some of the loss that our kids have experienced academically.

How have you seen the families of your students struggle during the pandemic?

They’ve struggled tremendously. They all came to the school for food. And every Monday they were there because the food distribution was for five days for the students and it included vegetables and fruit. Also, some of our parents have been out of work and the others who did work were essential workers. These are the ones who were getting sick. And those who were not working needed rental assistance, so that’s how we helped out. Even as bad as it was in Houston, they still felt better about being here in Houston than their native country because they knew things were even worse at home. They would talk to us about family members who had passed away because of COVID, because of the lack of health care.

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Elizabeth Trovall

Elizabeth Trovall

Immigration Reporter

Elizabeth Trovall is an immigration reporter for Houston Public Media. She joined the News 88.7 team after several years abroad in Santiago, Chile, where she reported on business, energy, politics and culture. Trovall's work has been featured on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, Latino...

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