There are a mere two days left of the 2020-21 school year for Rockingham County Public Schools in one of the division’s most challenging years ever.
Students and teachers need a break, but for some, that break will be short as summer school is right around the corner.
RCPS will be offering its usual programs, but there will be one new endeavor this summer aimed at providing intensive literacy intervention, said Larry Shifflett, assistant superintendent of innovation and learning.
For the first time, RCPS will invite small groups of students in grades kindergarten, first and some second to a 10-day initiative beginning June 17. In groups of just two to four, students will work with a reading specialist for 45 minutes to an hour on targeted topics, Shifflett said.
County vans will bus the students to 12 of the 15 elementary schools that are participating in the initiative, and will continue to bring in groups throughout the day. This will go on for 10 days. On the first day, students will be given an assessment, as well as on the last day. This will gauge how well the 10-day literacy program works, and that will be used to determine if the program will be used again in the future, Shifflett said.
“Everyone is really anxious to see how this plays out,” he said. There will only be 15 to 20 children per school invited, and the lessons will target where the deficit is.
In addition to the new reading program, invitational summer school will begin for elementary school and middle school students on July 12.
“We wanted to give them a break. They’re probably a little fatigued,” Shifflett said of students and teachers after the school year. “We also want to avoid that Fourth of July weekend.”
Students will attend for four weeks, and days will typically run about 30 to 45 minutes longer than the average school day. Focus will be on math and literacy, with some STEM activities sprinkled in.
Students invited to summer school are generally those who are performing under grade level.
High school students will begin summer school virtually on June 21. This virtual format was in place before the pandemic, Shifflett said. Lessons are asynchronous, with the idea being that students can complete their lessons and work at their own pace to work around summer jobs or other obligations.
For students who are still struggling, resources will be available at the school.
Along with students who may be struggling to catch up, high school summer school is also available to the small group of rising seniors who want to finish school early.
Shifflett said that each year between 30 and 40 students just completing their senior year are granted case-by-case permission to complete English 12 and U.S. government in order to graduate early.
Shifflett said there is not one underlying reason students choose to do this. Sometimes it’s a unique internship opportunity, or a desire to start a job early. But each student is required to review their plan with their principal to be granted permission.
Students graduating early also get their own special graduation on July 28.
Harrisonburg City Public Schools is offering a new intensive summer school for all students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. The summer school is not mandatory, but it is highly encouraged.
That program will begin on June 21 and run through July 16.
In terms of physical space, each school’s campus will look a little different. Each school has been tasked with developing outdoor classroom spaces that suit their campus and can begin being used in the spring.
But the curriculum for each school will be the same and will be focused on remediation after the loss of learning that occurred due to the pandemic, as well as enrichment. Standards of Learning objectives will inform what is taught during the summer program, but how each school presents those lessons will vary a bit, said Michael Richards, superintendent for HCPS.
To pay for a four-week summer camp for all students, HCPS is using a few different funding sources. It is using already budgeted funds for summer school, enrichment opportunities, as well as funds from the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. The cost of the summer program has not been shared with the School Board yet.