To prepare for the approaching academic year, many school districts are using this summer for enrichment, allowing students to receive help on subjects ranging from mathematics and English to music and art.
For Capital School District’s Summer Boost Program, the students are invited based on their class performance and can meet either in person or virtually. There are 849 students meeting face-to-face,at four different sites depending on grade level: East Dover Elementary, Booker T. Washington Elementary, Central Middle or Dover High. Another 360 virtual students participating in the program.
With the initiative taking an individualized approach, some students may come three days out of the week, while others attend four. The goal is to address the specific needs of the students.
“We made a very conscious decision to create learning-recovery plans for each of our students who had been through school for the last year-and-a-half, said Paul Dunford, director of instruction for the district. “In those plans, we identified where their strengths and weaknesses are, things that went wrong for them and things for them to work on, and then, we began looking at what are the ways we can do that.”
Also this summer, at Caesar Rodney High School, educators created six-week innovation camps for students. Each weeklong innovation focuses on a different genre, like creative writing, kickboxing, esports or world languages. These take place in person, Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Approximately 400 students are enrolled in the program.
The purpose of these camps is to “give students the chance to participate in face-to-face, hands-on experiences at CRHS while also mitigating any learning loss that may have occurred during COVID,” said Sherry Kijowski, principal of Caesar Rodney High School.
In addition, CR has brought six college interns with education majors from Delaware State University and Delaware Technical Community College to teach the innovation camps.
“They have been invaluable to the Caesar Rodney High School staff, … and this is a great way for them to preview life as a teacher,” said Ms. Kijowski.
Mr. Dunford explained how having in-school programs back this year has been very helpful for students, especially those starting school for the first time.
“The most important thing we’re seeing is that engagement between teachers and students within a face-to-face environment. It’s a pretty special connection,” he said.
Other summer projects are available to not only help students academically but emotionally and socially, as well.
For example, the Strive initiative, based in Wilmington, partners with the 21st Century Program and comes to East Dover Elementary School. Together, they teach about 40 smaller children about active listening, leadership and fine motor skills.
In the classrooms at East Dover Elementary, there are about 10-15 students and two teachers or aides, but the class sizes really depend on the grade level. Lower grade levels might include around five students per class.
In addition to education, both programs — which are separate from the districts’ traditional “summer schools” necessary for students to advance to the next grade — provide food and transportation for the children. Also, the Boost Program brings in counselors to support students in any way needed.
Mr. Dunford said that the Capital School District “knows a lot of things changed with the pandemic and being at home” and how counselors are there to assist with the adjustment back to in-person learning.
Kelly Green, principal of the early childhood program for the Capital School District, elaborated on the need to address students’ social needs by saying that Boost “allows kids to play.”
In addition to social concerns surrounding the pandemic, Capital officials made sure to address the health concerns parents may have about returning in the fall. For the summer programs, the district is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols about mask-wearing, requiring both teachers and students to don them at all times. And instead of being 6 feet apart, students are spaced out 3 feet.
District leaders said these requirements will continue into the fall.
“(Students) understand the social distancing rules, and they’re following them. They’re so excited to be in school that that becomes a very unimportant part of the day,” Mr. Dunford said.
This article was produced with support of a grant from the Delaware Community Foundation. For more information, visit here.