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Greene County summer school plan aims to bridge gap left by closure

STANARDSVILLE — Summer school in Greene County this year will expand on the flexibility of distance learning put in place because of COVID-19 to help bridge knowledge gaps for some area students.

According to Bryan Huber, assistant superintendent of schools, teachers and administrators are working to identify the students who they feel would most benefit from tailored one-on-one learning opportunities with a team of teachers. Due to the disrupted third quarter with school closures in mid-March and the disparity in access and participation to the virtual learning options offered during the six-week fourth quarter, summer school might be a time to catch up with more flexible learning options.

“In our elementary and middle school grades, we’ve identified students that we believe would benefit from summer school and paired them up with a classroom teacher with a ratio of no more than 12 students to one teacher,” Huber said. “What’s unique about it is that unlike what we’ve been doing over the past six weeks where we’ve had group office hours and group chats with multiple students and a teacher, the teacher is actually going to work one-on-one with each student.”

Beginning June 15 and ending on July 3, every elementary and middle school student enrolled in summer school will get at least one hour per week of individual time with their teacher.

“That could look like 20 minutes every other day or 30 minutes twice a week … but every student will get one hour of individual time where we’ll talk about the activities that have been sent home and really give that individual attention to students that we think they would certainly benefit from,” Huber said.

Traditional summer school would have seen these students coming in to the school building every day for a half day to work on remedial activities. With the move to virtual and at-home learning, teachers can be more flexible in their scheduling to allow them to really connect and tailor their lessons to the individual student, and Huber is hopeful for productive outcomes from this creative model.

“For our high school students, we have traditionally done some virtual learning in the summer already, and we are expanding those opportunities for students who may need to recover a credit of a class that they were not successful in, or for students that may be behind … who could utilize the opportunity to try to catch up,” Huber said.

Course materials are already being assembled into individual activity kits, which will be tailored to each student for parent pick-up at the school or home delivery if transportation is a concern.

“Every teacher is going to be working on an individual plan for each student on their caseload, and then creating a schedule with that child’s family that works for them based upon their family schedule or whatever challenges might be going on in terms of internet access or any of those things,” Huber continued.

While the initial surveys of homes at the beginning of school closures indicated that 10% or more of students did not have access to internet to complete virtual learning materials, a much greater percentage ended up unable or unwilling to participate in the “continuity of learning” fourth-quarter.

“One of the things that we quickly learned as we’ve been closed and focused on the continuity of learning is that the family dynamics are so different in every household,” Huber said. “The one-on-one teacher to student [setup] can be pretty powerful if we can schedule it around the family, so that’s what we’re trying to do this summer. Hopefully, we can get some students engaged that maybe, in the larger group setting, weren’t really able to get what they needed. It’s also designed so that if we had a student who wasn’t able to complete some of the work over the past six weeks, we can try to catch them back up.”

Students are identified for participation based on who the school feels would most benefit, either from looking at grades and school performance or for those who did not engage with the virtual learning opportunities of the past six weeks but for whom the opportunity to work one-on-one in a more flexible customized learning plan might be more effective.

“We know that the dynamics in the home changed dramatically after March 13,” Huber said. “Not just from school closure, but it could be food insecurities or unemployment for mom or dad or multiple children in the home and so for some families, it just didn’t work.”

Hubert said the school system is piloting the use of mobile hot spots to provide some data access to students who may not have it.

The WiFi access in the school parking lots and at the local public library will still be active throughout the summer, and Huber hopes that with the increased flexibility of scheduling for summer school students, more will be able to make use of these options to overcome some of the barriers to learning that became apparent over the past six weeks of distance learning.

As administrators and teachers work to identify and contact candidates for summer school over the next two weeks, any parent seeking more information can call the school and speak to an administrator. Calls are being forwarded for those working from home so the (434) 939-9000 main school division number will still be valid for contacting essential personnel.

Additionally, parents of children who will be 5 years old by Sept. 30 can visit greenecountyschools.com/page/1201 to register for kindergarten or call the school to arrange a paper packet pickup.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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