LANSING — Sweltering classrooms, drowsy students, dull lectures. By and large, summer school is seen as a slog: a punitive measure meant to keep struggling students from falling behind while their peers enjoy summer in the sun.
But following a year when most students were cooped up at home, summer school is going to look different — and Greater Lansing educators are expecting record enrollment.
To combat the social-emotional learning loss many students experienced this year, Lansing School District is pairing classroom learning with art, music, athletics, trips to the zoo and even horseback riding in its summer school program, or SOAR (Student Opportunities for Academic Re-engagement). Other offerings are designed to help students avoid repeating a grade or allow seniors to make up credits that kept them from graduating in the spring.
“We really want to see academic gains this summer — that’s the main focus,” said Teri Bernero, who is helping organize summer programming for Lansing School District. “At the same time, we understand these are kids. They need an outlet, they need to participate in fun activities, explorational activities.”
Lansing schools’ eight-week programs are split into two four-week sessions. They’ll begin by identifying students who are especially behind or struggling, Bernero said, and offer them the earliest learning opportunities.
The district is partnering with organizations like the YMCA and Potter Park Zoo to offer K-6 students two summer learning sessions. Students in 6th, 7th and 8th grade can enroll in two four-week sessions beginning June 21, where they’ll complete traditional classroom learning and take up subjects like health sciences, human services and information technology. Mobile career labs will bring students to community centers, parks and other locations around the city where they’ll get an introduction to different career paths.
The district is also offering sessions with weekly field trips for at-risk 7th and 8th graders. Those enrollees will be paired with student mentors from Michigan State University and Lansing high schools for academic tutoring.
Students in grades 9-12 can enroll in Lansing School District’s credit recovery programs, which also include two four-week sessions. And for the first time all year, Lansing School District is offering in-person classes.
“We were putting a lot of time and effort into creating a face-to-face summer learning option for students,” Bernero said. “Screen-to-screen will still be available, but we really want to see our kids back in school.”
At Okemos Public Schools, summer classes will aim to make up for learning loss endured during remote schooling.
The district is taking a two-tiered approach to summer school, said Superintendent John Hood, with a first phase available for all students and a second, more intensive phase for students most in need of academic intervention.
“We know there’s been an impact from the pandemic on the learning of our kids,” Hood said. “This is really an opportunity to give the kids the academic support they need that will also help them navigate school when they return to be more in line with where their peers are performing.”
None of Okemos’ summer learning programs are mandatory. But the district is trying to make them as attractive as possible in hopes of drawing students out of their homes, Hood said.
Government funding has helped.
At several area districts, including East Lansing Public Schools, funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund — part of the federal coronavirus stimulus package — is financing summer school and credit recovery programs.
Glenn Mitcham, director of curriculum at ELPS, expects to enroll about 425 elementary school students in the district’s in-person summer learning camps. They’ll also enroll 50 students in one-on-one tutoring and 200 in a summer reading program that includes check-ins between teachers and parents to improve reading skills.
The district is also offering a middle school math camp that can enroll about 85 students, a program for incoming freshmen focused on how to be successful in high school, middle and high school summer tutoring and credit recovery for students who need to start a class over, Mitcham said.
Summer learning opportunities are a good start, Mitcham said, but they’re only the first step in addressing the impact COVID-19 had on students this year.
“We recognize that we have a lot of students whose learning has suffered this year. To provide them more time with teachers this year is crucial,” he said. “We see it as critical and I honestly hope resources like this will become available going forward, not just this summer. It’s going to take more than this summer to get kids where they need to be.”
Contact Mark Johnson at 517-377-1026 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMarkJohnson.
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