KANSAS CITY, Mo. — "COVID slide" is a term being used to describe the impact a year of virtual learning had on kids.
A recent Horace Mann report found 97% of K-12 teachers surveyed saw learning loss among their students.
As families look for ways to fill educational gaps, tutoring services are seeing a major spike in demand this summer.
Kids With Class, a Waldo tutoring center that specializes in reading skills, is currently at capacity.
Owner Dana Segur said there were 16 children enrolled in her program at the beginning of May, and that number is now up to about 25. Several kids are on a waiting list.
"We haven't turned them away, but we've had to say we can't help until August when we get a bigger space," she said.
Stephanie Hilliard was relieved to be able to bring her granddaughter Sherae to Segur's center during a challenging academic year.
"I knew it would even out the balance with her coming here," Hilliard said, referring to the impact of virtual learning.
Jessica White, whose 6-year-old daughter is enrolled in the program, is also thrilled to have some professional help.
"Your kids don't really listen to you when you're the teacher, so yeah, it was rough," White said.
Segur symphathizes with parents on that point.
"It's not really doable. It'd be like if I were trying to be a doctor to someone. I don't have the skill, the knowledge," she said, "Parents are well meaning and they want their children to succeed, but they don't have the skills or the knowledge as to how to teach them to read, especially if they've gotten behind."
That fear of kids being left behind is top of mind for parents, according to Ron Wisdom, who runs The Tutoring Center in the Northland. His center is also experiencing all-time high enrollment.
"The concerns we're hearing from them are just kind of get back to the basics after the difficult year everybody has had with the pandemic," he said.
Yet another company, Varsity Tutors, said demand for services in Kansas City is up 60% compared to this time last year, which was also a busy one.
"If you break it down by category, it's up 75% for math tutoring, which sort of showcases how important parents see making sure math skills stay fresh or get solidified before we start to build on them," Varsity Tutors Chief Academic Officer Brian Galvin said.
Reading and math are the two subjects tutors are honing in on, since those skills build year after year. For example, Galvin explained that if a student doesn't have multiplication and divisibility down, then learning algebra one day will be more difficult.
"If we shore up those foundations today, COVID slide is a one-time aberration. If we don't, no one wants to have that student who just has that kind of chronic struggle in a subject when we know we can pinpoint it back to a semester or a month or even a couple days that just didn't click," he said.
The tutors 41 Action News interviewed emphasized that the summer is a great time to check in with kids about learning loss.
"Have some honest discussions with your child. You know your child the best," Wisdom said. "And if they need an assessment, certainly places like The Tutoring Center, we would offer that for free and be able to assess and provide some candid feedback for your child before they return to school."
Segur, too, offers a free consultation and reading assessment.
"If we know now that they need the help, then we can get them scheduled, get them a program and get them on their way so that when the school year does start, they're going to have this help," she said.
It's help that Hilliard is grateful she found for her grandchild.
"I think I'm pretty on it with reading and things like that, but sometimes you just need that little extra," she said.
According to Tutors.com, a private tutor can cost between $25 and $80 an hour, and local tutoring centers generally cost around $150 to $200 per month. However, costs vary depending on the frequency of instruction and on class size.
Parents should also consider contacting their child's school to inquire about any free programs that are available.