School district leaders hope summer sessions slowed academic relapseAug 02, 2021 12:48PM ● By Julie Slama
Students have fun learning and reviewing concepts while attending summer school in Murray School District. (Photo courtesy of Murray School District)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
This summer, students across the Salt Lake Valley may not have experienced the summer slide as much as previous years.
Summer slide is a term used to describe academic regression many students experience over the summer months, and nationwide, teachers and school districts are trying to make a point of helping students review, gain access to resources and learn individually or in smaller settings this summer through summer school options.
Locally, many school districts invited students who may have fallen behind during the COVID-19 pandemic to summer session so they could review their previous instruction or enhance their learning through additional practice.
In Murray, several hundred students of all grade levels were identified and took part in the four-week session.
“We identified the kids we needed to reach most and worked with their parents to see if we could get them to come and get caught up,” said Doug Perry, Murray School District spokesman. “We feel really good about it and made some excellent progress with many students. It was not without challenge and there are still going to be some students who need support and resources, particularly those that did not take advantage of the opportunity. But we feel we are in better shape with many of them than we were at the end of the school year.”
This was the first summer school session in the district after a number of years. Students attended a school per level—elementary, junior high or high school—where they typically spent three to four hours five days per week and received some individualized instruction. Meals and snacks were served, and incentives were given to “keep them engaged,” he said.
In Jordan School District, spokeswoman Sandra Riesgraf said that students of every level were able to get help at their regular schools as the district used CARES Act funding to support teacher salaries. There were two voluntary summer sessions and meals were provided.
“Some type of summer school was offered at every school in the district, both elementary and secondary,” she said, saying it was a change from just holding it at Valley High School.
In the elementary level, students who needed extra help mostly with math and literacy were invited to participate from 9 a.m. to noon. In the middle school, students who needed extra help in a subject area as well as ninth-grade credit recovery attended the same time period. High schools offered credit recovery all day.
While the total number of students who participated wasn’t available for press deadline, Riesgraf identified 1,908 secondary students who registered in the first summer session.
“Our elementary teachers and principals I’ve talked to were pleasantly surprised by the number of kids that showed up for summer school, so it’s been a positive outcome,” she said.
Canyons School District also offered its Summer Boost program, targeted to about 1,500 elementary and middle school students who needed the extra help or a bump up in their education. They also received free meals and other social services.
“The biggest thing is that I hope our students can catch up and master their unfinished learning,” said Alta View Elementary School Principal Scott Jameson who had about 20 of his students attend morning lessons at nearby Altara Elementary. “They focused on their literacy and math. On the last day, I told them ‘nice job’ as they came off the bus and even walked partway home with a couple of them.”
The program was housed in five schools throughout the district four mornings per week for three weeks.
Natalie Gleave was a Summer Boost administrator at Crescent Elementary, which served about 300 students from 10 different elementary schools.
“Our teachers and staff tried to make this a fun experience for students,” she said. “Students were all there voluntarily and we tried to make it feel like a summer camp of learning. There were a lot of hands-on activities to enrich and strengthen students’ skills.”
Gleave said each morning they held a meeting where students had the opportunity to get to know one another.
“These meetings always had a life skills component tied into them to boost student's social skills. Bringing kids together from 10 different elementary schools around the valley provided many opportunities to make new connections,” she said.
Within Crescent’s camp, they also hosted a newcomer academy, which had two classes of kindergarten through fifth-grade students who are new to the United States. One of the classes served eight students who spoke five different languages, she said.
“The best part of the Summer Boost program was the kids. It was amazing after only three weeks how connected we felt to each other; I saw new friendships grow and develop between kids of all different backgrounds and circumstances,” Gleave said. “I know the parents of these students were grateful for the opportunity to send their children to Summer Boost. I had several parents stop me before and after school to express their appreciation for the busing, meals and instruction that was provided to them at no cost.”
In addition, high schools offered other programs, such as credit recovery and also the regular AVID Summer Bridge program at Jordan High and Husky Strong program were offered to incoming freshmen. Jordan High also sponsored a six-week Code to Success coding camp as well as reading and math interventions.
Jameson said his school had its second summer reading program where students could check out books and read in the library. They also partnered with Salt Lake County libraries so a librarian came in to hold storytime and do crafts with the students that tied into literacy.
Another component of Alta View’s program was a PTA and School Community Council volunteer taught parents DYAD reading, or a side-by-side reading strategy, and they were able to practice it alongside their children.
“It really is a good program and a good group of teachers, librarians, parents and volunteers all involved to help our students with their reading and literacy,” he said.