After a school year of virtual lessons, hybrid instruction, various pickup and drop-off schedules for her children in Evergreen Public Schools, Justine King is just as ready for summer vacation as her children.
“We made it through the school year,” the Vancouver mom of three said.
This week marks the final week of instruction for 2020-21 for most of Clark County’s school districts. But for King’s two school-age kids — sixth-grader Tyler at Wy’east Middle School and Riverview Elementary kindergartner Axel — school will be on pause only for a short time. That’s because their mother chose to sign her oldest children up for summer school so they have a more structured school activity in preparation for what she hopes is a more normalized fall.
And what King hopes her children gain from it is immeasurable.
“My kindergartner doesn’t even know what a real school week is,” she said. Her middle-schooler received four-day-a-week in-person instruction as a student on an Individualized Educational Plan.
“I hope this cushions the change for the new school year, and hopefully, that will make for an easier transition,” she said. “August is far enough away to give us a break from all the craziness of the year we’ve had.”
In an effort to tackle unfinished learning, area districts are preparing for their largest summer school offerings ever in an effort to reconnect with students and make up for lost instructional time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Expanded summer programs are part of several districts’ Academic and Student Well-Being Plans meant to address student needs as a result of COVID-19. All districts statewide submitted plans to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in order to qualify for federal funding under the American Rescue Plan.
What makes summer school different from past years is going beyond elementary literacy services and high school credit recovery and catch-up. Educators say they’re boosting and support students’ academic needs and social and emotional well-being across K-12 heading into the fall after an educational year unlike any other.
“That’s what we’ve seen through all this,” said Julie Tumelty, Evergreen’s executive director for teaching and learning. “(Students) need the academics, but they need the school connections, other student connections, the adult connections and make sure they get support and both their academics and social/emotional learning.”
Most programs will be in-person with the exception of some high school credit recoveries taught online. Districts are targeting at-risk students based on assessment and academic struggles, but attendance is voluntary and open to any student.
In Evergreen, roughly 1,800 of the nearly 2,900 students registered are in elementary grades for June and August sessions lasting two weeks Monday through Thursday. The focus includes math, reading, social and emotional needs, physical activity and other special services. Traditionally, elementary summer school includes third-grade literacy intervention and English Language Learners special services for 200 to 300 students, Tumelty said.
“This year, we opened it up to all grades,” she said. “We need to meet the needs of as many students as we can in all the grades knowing that everyone has been impacted.”
At the middle school level, Battle Ground Public Schools joins Evergreen by expanding summer school offerings for the first time to incoming middle school students. Battle Grounds’ K-8 offerings are spread across Yacolt and Glenwood Heights primaries and River HomeLink campuses for three weeks in July with a student capacity of 810, said district spokeswoman Rita Sanders. The district also is promoting extended at-home virtual learning opportunities.
Back at Evergreen, incoming middle-schoolers can select from algebra readiness to soccer to a writers’ workshop at various school locations. Tumelty said parents of middle school students surveyed for summer sessions expressed wanting a blend of academic enrichment and student engagement back at school for their children.
In-person education key
And an in-person offering was key for parents concerned about putting their kids through an online-only summer. That was a difference-maker for King, the Evergreen parent with two school-age children, on whether to enroll her sons into their respective August programs.
“Just to have any kind of social interaction at this point is a plus,” King said. “They’ve really been deprived of that for over a year now.”
Vancouver, the area’s second-largest district, will have, for the first-time, extended year services for students in special education, in addition to its traditional summer offerings of camps and credit recovery for grades 6-12. District spokeswoman Pat Nuzzo said one addition is a sixth-grade kickoff Aug. 30 — a day when incoming sixth-graders can get a walk-thru of their new middle school and meet teachers before classes start Aug. 31.