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Districts ready to help kids beat 'summer slide'

Tampa Bay school districts are helping kids catch up from COVID-related issues by keeping students in class.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — School districts say they're seeing more kids falling behind this past year. Virtual learning has been part of the problem for a lot of families. 

Districts like Pasco have already said that come fall, the online learning option created during the pandemic is not going to be offered.

RELATED: Superintendent: Pasco County Schools will not offer pandemic-related online learning this fall

Pinellas County Schools offers a Summer Bridge program each year to address what's called the summer slide, but this year it's going to be much more comprehensive because we're dealing with not only the summer slide but the COVID slide.  

"We've been doing summer bridge for over 10 years and certainly there's no more important summer than this one," said Kevin Hendrick, the associate superintendent for teaching and learning services. He says they are taking a different approach to the program this summer. 

"For example, mathematics is an area in past summers that maybe wasn't a focus. This summer, it will be more of a focus because students lost out on a lot of practice and that's critical for the next grade level."

And this program is in-person only. They are not offering a virtual option.  

"We have expanded the number of sites so we have 60 elementary schools across Pinellas County and we're providing transportation within your zoned school, so we're trying to make it as easy as possible and this is the first summer we're providing transportation," Hendrick said.

Hendrick says this is a great opportunity for students who have been doing virtual learning exclusively to get reacquainted with the classroom and face-to-face learning. He says they've learned a lot over this past school year about keeping kids and teachers safe and they will be following those same safety protocols over the summer. 

Here's what other districts are currently planning for summer:

Highlands: At this time, the plans for elementary summer school in priority order:

  1. Third Grade Summer Reading Camp for students who must pass Third Grade FSA ELA for promotion requirements. 
  2. First Grade Summer Camp for all first-grade students.  Elementary principals/staff are meeting with all elementary parents starting next week to review student progress, recommendations for summer school, and continued learning into next school year.  This is the group of students who might have missed part of the K instruction (learning to read) during last year's COVID-19 shutdown.
  3. Second Grade Summer Camp for all second-grade students.  This is the next group of students who might have missed part of the first-grade instruction, completing and solidifying the learning to read during last year's COVID-19 shutdown.
  4. K Summer Camp for all K students.  This group of students did have a year's worth of K instruction in learning to read; however, some students that might have been enrolled in the Innovative Learning Environment (ILE instructional model) might have some gaps in the K elements of learning to read and could use booster instruction to solidify readiness for first grade. All of the above is dependent upon the number of elementary certified teachers applying to teach summer school.  The goal is to have manageable instructional groups for each teacher.  For the groups being served, the first day of elementary summer camps is June 2 and continues each weekday through June 30.

Hernando: Our elementary schools will offer 3rd-grade reading camp and this summer, they are also adding 2nd and 4th grade for students who could benefit from additional instruction.  Our high schools will offer credit recovery camps for students. Our middle schools are putting the finishing details on the summer opportunities they plan to offer their students as well. Once the details are finalized, information for families will be posted to the website.

Hillsborough: We have a variety of Summer Learning Programs to choose from, which is expanded after the pandemic. It still needs to be approved at the School Board meeting on the 13th.

Polk: This year's summer learning program will serve targeted students in grades 2, 3 and 4. There will also be course/grade recovery for grades 6-12.

We don't have a webpage for our summer learning program as this is something schools will be specifically reaching out to parents of those students identified through performance data as struggling academically. Schools have been identifying those students so they can receive extra support with summer learning. Schools will be contacting parents to give them more information about the summer learning program.

Sarasota: At this time, Sarasota County Schools will be having an academic summer program this year, but we are still determining the details and implementation of the program. We'll be sharing information with families as soon as the plans are finalized.

RELATED: Florida Education Commissioner: Student promotion, high school graduation will not rely on state assessment scores this year

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