Along with health and economic problems, the COVID-19 pandemic has created educational hurdles for Utah students. A new organization says the state is in a learning crisis and teachers need help to fight it.

The director of “Learning Stash,” Melissa Inouye, said Utah is a state that loves to prepare, but we need to prepare for education crises like we would for natural disasters. She said Learning Stash is a way for anyone in Utah to get involved and contribute to our education system in a meaningful way.

“If there were like a hurricane in Utah, we would all come out and muck out the houses. And if there were an earthquake, we would run out there and pull people out of rubble. But this is like the educational intellectual equivalent of mucking out houses and pulling kids out of houses,” said Inouye. 

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She said statistics show that in Utah 20% of students haven’t done any school work since mid-March, that’s a six-month learning gap heading into the new school year.

“To lose half a year of second grade is like not going to second grade at all.“

That’s why she recently started Learning Stash, it has three parts. The first stash is money in the form of grants given to teachers to use however they need.

Jenna Flood teaches U.S. history and French at Oak Canyon Junior High School in Lindon. She said she has done her best to engage students over zoom.

“But there was still this giant gap, and all these disconnections that happened between me and my kids,” said Flood. 

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She used the $300 grant from learning stash to help the students who had the biggest grade drops during virtual learning. She used the money for extra materials and incentives for them to complete the work over summer.

“This was something I could actually do. It wasn’t going to take superhuman effort, yet for those four or five kids, it feels like a lot.”

The second stash is in human capital. Volunteers like emergency substitutes or people who can help with the technical issues of teaching online. No matter what your field is, there are ways to help teachers, like when the software company Lucid got involved and built the learning stash website.

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“When you talk about infrastructure our education is really the core of who we are and who we can become, whether that’s as a state, or as a community, or as a company,” said Karl Sun, the Lucid Software CEO.

The third stash is of knowledge. They are growing resources for teachers like tutorials on how to make face masks and shields, as well as best practices for teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learning Stash is working with school districts across the state. They said a big need for teachers right now is cleaning supplies, and volunteers that can help them with balancing teaching in-person and online at the same time.

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