EDUCATION

Dysart district expanding summer school

Free classes at all elementaries help catch up on COVID-19 gap

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Part 2 of a 2-part series. Read part 1 here

Last spring, school districts nationwide were reacting to a global pandemic.

This year, the Dysart Unified School District is looking to see what impact it had on student learning.

The district took a hard look at the third-quarter benchmarks to discover a learning loss dating back to spring 2020. Now district officials have a plan in place to help students and families by way of expanding summer school.

The district’s summer school will be available free to all children, which is not something the district previously offered. Dana Knoebel, DUSD director of K-8 curriculum, instruction and assessment, said only Title I schools previously held summer school.

Now all 20 elementary schools are eligible. If summer school is not offered at a student’s home school, transportation will be provided.

“We are being very intentional about what we are teaching students. We picked top priority standards,” Ms. Koebel said.

The first summer school session will run Monday, June 7, through Thursday, June 24. Session two will run Monday, July 6, through Thursday, July 22. Sessions will run three hours. Ms. Koebel said offering summer school gives parents options with the same learning objectives taking place during both sessions. Availability was a goal of district officials to have as many children attend as possible.

At the high school level, Valley Vista High School Pricipal Shelley Isai said two different time frames — 7:15-10:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.-2:15 p.m. — are offered. She said students can make up to two credits, and credit recovery is ideal for seniors who fell behind during the pandemic.

“There will be a special summer session at Sundown Mountain Alternative where learning will be customized for seniors that don’t graduate in May and hopefully can in June,” she explained. “The third option is we are still offering iSchool to recover credits and get ahead.”

Ms. Koebel said after looking over the third-quarter benchmarks, the most commonly missed standards, as well as what the state deems top standards, are what will be covered in summer school sessions.

Ms. Isai explained summer school teachers have access to data to see how the registered students fit to the benchmarks and at the elementary level it is more standards-based since many of the skills are building blocks.

“Teaching everything is meeting the learner where they are at,” she added.

The summer option is funded through recent federal stimulus legislation designed to remedy learning loss, and Ms. Isai said the funds are being used directly on students and teachers. The impact of the added learning may be difficult to gauge.

"We estimate that it will cost a little over $4 million to provide summer school this year. Funding will come from either a budget bill that provides funds for learning loss that is still in the legislature, or from the approximately $16 million in ESSER II COVID relief funds that we received in December,” stated Dysart Director of Communications Renee Ryon in an email.

As Ms. Isai explaing many students suffered more than grades and standards losses. For some, family members were lost and the socioemotional side of the student is something that can take a lot longer, as well as reacclimating to the classroom.

“Letters were sent out to every student K-8 and now schools are hiring teachers and an administrator to oversee it. Letters will go out at the start of May with the time and all the information needed for summer school,” Ms. Koebel said.

And at the high school level, students registered through assigned counselors, as well as counselors who were seeking out credit-deficient students.

With this new option, Ms. Isai said Quinn Kellis, DUSD superintendent is very forward thinking and challenged administration to think outside of the box and figure out the best learning options for kids and how to best accomaddate families.

Reporter Jennifer Jimenez can be reached at jjimenez@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter @SCW_Independent.

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