NEWARK – Students have adjusted well to COVID-19 modifications to summer school, according to Worcester County Public Schools.
The school system, nearing the end of a July 13-Aug. 13 summer academy, is just one of two jurisdictions in the state holding in-person summer school.
“We’re in our third week now and things are going well,” said Tamara Mills, coordinator of instruction, last week. “The kids who are there, they’re loving it. They’re so excited to see their friends.”
Mills said that after meeting with health officials multiple times, school system administrators were able to develop safe practices that enabled summer school to go on in spite of the pandemic.
“These decisions, we didn’t take them lightly,” she said. “I want the community to understand, we hear them. We know how anxious and concerned the community is because we are too.”
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, numerous changes have been made. Attendance has been limited so that there are no more than 13 students in a classroom, which allows kids to be six feet apart. Upon arriving each day, while they don’t have their temperature checked, students are required to turn in a symptom check-list their parents have completed. If a student forgets their checklist, their parents are called before they’re allowed to enter the building.
Once inside the school, students — who wear masks indoors — go to their classroom. Though teachers are encouraged to take their classes outside, when they’re in the building student movement is limited primarily to the classroom. Lunches are eaten in the classroom.
Mills said each school had two distinct nurse areas set up — one for students receiving regular medication and a separate one for students not feeling well.
There have not been any students in whom COVID-19 symptoms have been identified, according to Mills. She said there have been a few situations where staff members have reported possible exposures.
“If staff says they may have been exposed, we go through a flow chart and the nurse decides if they should quarantine,” Mills said.
She said having gone through the process, educators were better prepared for whenever students returned to school buildings in the fall.
“I think it’s given us an opportunity to learn some lessons on best practices,” Mills said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to observe student behavior.”
She said students had adjusted well to the face mask requirement and the need for physical distancing. Parents, too, are being vigilant and careful to ensure they’re following procedures.
“We’ve gotten a great response,” Mills said. “The parents who sent their kids want to see them back.”
Mills said summer school enrollment this summer was at 400, roughly half of what it would be during a typical year. Educators have targeted at-risk students for the academy, though that can be kids who are at-risk academically, socially, emotionally, or simply students who didn’t engage as they should have in the spring’s virtual learning. In the month-long session, students are receiving instruction in reading, math physical education and social-emotional wellness.