PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — This school year was the first year many kids fully returned to in-person instruction since the COVID-19 pandemic began — and already, educators say they have noticed the gaps.

For a whole school year, students were forced to stay at home limiting the socialization they need.

That being said, it makes sense that when kids returned to school they had some catching up to do. But early learning experts say the social return to school was extremely difficult for kids — and the range of challenges are big.

It depended on how old the children are, their background and the resources families have. Beth Graser with the Hillsboro School District said staff had a tough challenge in front of them going into this year.

“Relearning those school expectations and what kinds of behaviors are and are not okay in the school setting was definitely a challenge. One that are our staff, certainly met,” said Graser.

Dr. Megan McClelland, an early childhood development expert at Oregon State University, noticed similar setbacks.

“Some children, you know, did really well,” said Dr. McClelland. “Many children did not, and especially children that were already struggling economically, behaviorally with lots of you know, I would say chaos and instability in their family life. Those kids, one or two years behind.”

Dr. McClelland added that children whose families were able to have flexible work schedules and be there with their children may not have been as far behind and may have even progressed.

These experts say the gap between the haves and the have nots is more visible than ever, and the challenge now is closing that gap. A challenge the whole community has to rise up to, not just teachers and students.