JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ohio (WTRF) — A time of uncertainty…eventually became time that was hard to make up.

As COVID surged through the population two years ago, some kids ended up absent from the classroom for more than a year.

While it may have prevented an infection, their education took a staggering hit.

Screen-based learning wasn’t ideal for everyone, and the younger ones had an especially hard time—and it’s becoming apparent in their performance today.

Those students who were in kindergarten that year are now in 2nd and 3rd grade, so they’re experiencing their learning gaps that happened between kindergarten and 2nd grade, which is really, that’s the time when they should be learning to read.

Dr. Nicole McDonald, Director of Grants, Jefferson County Educational Service Center

But in Jefferson County, the Educational Service Center isn’t about to stand by as their kids struggle.

From now until the end of March, teachers are working overtime to give K through 12 tutoring sessions.

On Mondays and Tuesdays for two hours each, students can get the one-on-one help they couldn’t always get at a time when desks were empty.

Teachers, this is a difficult time for them, they’re trying to catch up, they’re trying to make up for their learning gap, and they have students who are just different levels in their classroom.

Dr. Nicole McDonald, Director of Grants, Jefferson County Educational Service Center

That’s thanks to more than one million dollars in American Rescue Plan money that will span several years.

After a review of the shutdown’s effects, what they found was a noticeable downward curve in academic achievement.

Dr. McDonald says differences in students’ living situations led to uneven outcomes.

Because they need somebody to guide them through the process, and parents had to work, so if they weren’t home, then they were left to caregivers or grandparents who aren’t really proficient in virtual learning, so they had to learn something along with them.

Dr. Nicole McDonald, Director of Grants, Jefferson County Educational Service Center

While the tutoring will be through Google Meets, the money is also going to the now-filled classrooms.

Preschool to 2nd grade teachers in Jefferson County now have a special curriculum to strengthen their basic skills.

They say this year is about closing the gap for everyone—one that a post-COVID world won’t reopen.

The extra tutoring is for all the Jefferson County ESC’s schools, which extend as far south as Harrison County.