School System Offers Summer Academy To ‘At-Risk Students’

School System Offers Summer Academy To ‘At-Risk Students’
A comparison is pictured of what summer academy would typically look like compared to revised plans for this summer. Image from Worcester County Board of Education meeting packet

NEWARK –  Worcester County Public Schools will welcome a limited number of students back for summer school programs next month.

Despite ongoing gathering size restrictions related to COVID-19, the school system will be able to hold a summer program beginning July 13. Educators told the school board this week 10-13 students per grade, per school would be invited to take part.

“Typically we target everyone,” said Tamara Mills, coordinator of instruction. “This year we’re going to focus on our most at-risk students.”

Mills said that while the summer program would start later than normal and would be open to fewer students than usual, educators were eager to work face to face with the students expected to need the most help. She said last week’s announcement from State Superintendent Karen Salmon had made the proposed program possible, as up to 15 students per classroom are permitted now.

“Thanks to updates from Dr. Salmon it’s going to look a little more like our traditional summer program than we thought,” Mills said.

Nevertheless that target audience will be smaller, as the school system is focusing on students deemed the most at-risk, whether they’re behind in their studies or in need of social or emotional support.

“In a lot of cases COVID was a trauma for our kids and families,” Mills said.

Instead of emphasis on STEM projects and enrichment opportunities, the summer program will frontload next year’s learning concepts and focus on remediation. Mills said programs wouldn’t be finalized until students were in attendance, as educators wouldn’t be able to determine what sort of help students needed until they arrived.

“We don’t have the typical baseline data,” she said.

Mills said the program, which will start July 13 and run for five weeks, will go Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Content will focus on math, reading, social and emotional wellbeing and physical education.

Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS) is working with the Worcester County Health Department to develop health and safety procedures for both school facilities and school buses.

“We’ll be continuing to iron out those details,” Mills said.

Schools have already started reaching out to students selected for summer school and will continue to do that in the coming weeks. The school system has also developed a list of summer resources for all WCPS students, so those not taking part in the structured program will still have access to enrichment options.

Officials praised school system staff for being flexible as they developed a program that could fit within COVID-19 restrictions.

“Worcester is one of the few school systems offering face to face summer school,” said Denise Shorts, chief academic officer for pre-k through eighth grade.

As for what school will look like in the fall amid COVID-19 concerns, officials said Tuesday that a recovery committee was developing a plan for the coming school year and would share information with the school board in July.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.