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New Normal ‘Truly Embraced By Kids,’ Says Jennings Superintendent

August Jennewein
University of Missouri-St. Louis
Jennings Superintendent Paula Knight spent 28 years with St. Louis Public Schools before starting her new job in Jennings this year.

Educators have long battled the summer slide — the decline in reading ability and other academic skills that occurs over the summer break. Now events of the past year have parents and educators fearing a COVID-19 slide.

The newly instated superintendent of Jennings School District remains optimistic: “When I hear people say, ‘COVID caused so much learning loss,’ well, I beg to differ,” Paula Knight said.

Instead, she continued, the pandemic forced “a different kind of learning. Kids were going through learning different modes of communication, different roles that many of our kids took on while they were at home [and] learning more about themselves because they're spending more time with themselves.

“It's more like unfinished learning. … We’re just picking up where we left off.”

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Knight shared how teachers are rethinking back-to-school this year. Like others across the metro area, the north St. Louis County district plans to proceed with in-person classes Monday through Friday, even with the threat of the delta variant.

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She said Jennings students were excited to be back to school Monday. And while Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed a lawsuit seeking to block mask mandates in school districts across the state, she said complaints about masks were all but nonexistent in the hallways of her district’s schools.

“It's a new normal here, and a new normal that has truly been embraced by the kids, as well as the staff,” she said.

Knight spent 28 years with the St. Louis Public Schools before starting her new job in Jennings this year. She received her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Education.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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