ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The Ferguson-Florissant School District is doing its best to help students get back on track after using virtual learning during the pandemic. The superintendent says students are still behind.

Dr. Joseph Davis, the superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District, says 82% of the students in the district are African Americans.

He says many families didn’t have a good computer infrastructure. The district had to supply those. The challenges of poverty and the COVID-19 pandemic just add to the troubles.

“They lost at least a year, I think, when you look at just data in general,” Davis said. “The time we’ve been out, when you look at reading and math performance. But I can tell you that over these last 12 months that we’ve been back to in-person learning, we’ve put some new infrastructure in place.”

The school district received around $32 million in ARPA pandemic funds. $6.2 million of that was spent on programs and personnel to help the learning process. The biggest expense was for teachers to help with after-school and other programs.

Davis says the district has a shortage of teachers. He also says he’d like to have more resources to be able to increase teachers’ pay even more. The state gave educators a raise, but he says more is needed to attract teachers to districts like his.

“In districts like mine, I would tell you absolutely not. We need more resources and support,” Davis said. “Our children come with bigger deficits because many of them come from environments like I grew up in. Being first generation of college. When you talk about funding formulas in districts like mine, you got to put more resources in place for students so that they have the support that they need to show up and be ready to learn. Who thought we would be able to go home on the drop of a dime when COVID happened and everybody was out of school. We figured out how to make learning happen for all of our students in that time. Now that we’ve learned all those things, and we’re back into it, why would they want me to go back to what we used to do. The milk is on the ground; you may not be able to put it back in the bottle.”