By Dedra Cordle
The South-Western City Schools District will offer extended learning opportunities to hundreds of students this summer.
In lieu of its traditional summer school programming, which primarily focuses on improving literacy skills for third graders and course credit assistance for high schoolers, the district will expand and broaden its reach to provide academic assistance for all learning levels.
“We are excited about this opportunity to provide these extended learning opportunities for our students,” said Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise at the March 8 board of education meeting.
According to Brian Bowser, the executive director of elementary schools, the programming will take place throughout the summer but will be broken up into different “buckets” for each grade level.
For instance, the June and July bucket will consist of expanded educational opportunities for kindergarteners through sixth graders, and high school students.
The high school students will begin their virtual programming on June 7 and their course of study will run until July 30.
Bowser said this programming, which will allow students to recover credits or receive a limited first time credit for physical education, health, or government, will be delivered asynchronously.
“This will free up our high school students to do other things they want to do this summer,” he said.
Students can take up to two credits and it is free to seniors. Underclassmen will likely be charged $75 for the first time credit courses, but that fee has to be approved by the board of education. They are scheduled to vote on it at the March 22 meeting.
Board member Anthony Caldwell asked whether that fee would be waived for those who qualify for free or reduced lunch program. Wise indicated that it would be.
Grades K-6 will begin their extended learning opportunity on June 14. It will run through June 30 and there will be no fees attached.
Bowser said the programming, which will be delivered virtually, will primarily focus on literacy skills for the lower grades and mathematics for the upper grades.
“But that is not set in stone,” he said during a follow-up interview. “There will be a lot of flexibility with the subjects and some of the instruction will even be personalized to fit the needs of the student.”
The programming will be held 2.5 hours each day and will include large groups, small groups, and independent study. There will be a 16:1 teacher-student ratio.
Bowser said the district hopes to have as many as 900 students participate in this specific June bucket.
“We want to get as many students as possible to take advantage of these opportunities,” he said.
In August, students in grades K-8 will be targeted but at a smaller scale than those in the June session.
“We are looking at very small groups, possibly a 1:5 ratio depending on how many educators we can get to sign up,” said Bowser.
The August session, which runs from Aug. 9-20, is slated to take place for two hours each day at each building.
“Our hope for the August bucket is that it will take place in person so students, particularly those who have been attending school virtually the entire year, become reacclimated with the everyday presence inside a building,” said Bowser. “However, our plan to hold these educational opportunities in person is dependent on what the (COVID-19) conditions are at that time.”
Though hundreds of students will be invited to participate in these extended learning opportunities, those invitations will be based on a number of criteria that includes, but is not limited to, teacher recommendations and data pulled from assessment programs such as iReady.
“We really want to target those students who need that additional help,” said Bowser.
Invitations for students to participate in the extended learning opportunities will be sent to parents in the coming weeks. Bowser said participation is not mandatory.
The district will continue to offer summer opportunities for its English learner students in grades K-4 and there will be extended school year opportunities for the special education population, as determined by the individualized education program team. Bowser said more information will be forthcoming.
The district will also provide resources for each of its buildings for the 2021-22 school year to facilitate after-school tutoring programs. Bowser said each program will be shaped by the administrators and educators within the buildings as they can better assess the needs of their students.
“Each building will be given the opportunity to dream big and fly,” he said.