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Waco ISD summer school to start with hopes of catchup after pandemic

Waco ISD summer school to start with hopes of catchup after pandemic

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Nearly 2,000 Waco Independent School District students will see a long school year affected by COVID-19 followed by more school, as summer school starts next week at all the district’s campuses.

For some, it is a chance to catch up academically after falling behind because of transitions to online classes or disruptions caused by COVID-19 absences, quarantine or temporary school closures.

District officials had hoped to enroll more students who had not failed their classes yet could use the extra time on studies, but found a lack of willing teachers limited student enrollment.

“Staffing was a little more difficult this summer,” Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Deena Cornblum said. “We had a late school year, and (teachers) are tired. We had fewer applications than usual.”

Though summer school teachers often stay on the campus where they taught during the school year, some may be asked to go to other campuses where staffing is shorthanded.

Summer school for high school students is largely geared to credit recovery: retaking specific classes that students had failed and need for graduation. Summer school for elementary students aims at strengthening basic skills, especially reading, to bring them to grade level.

For both elementary and high school students, this year’s summer classes will resemble those of past years, but summer school for middle school students will be fuller, Cornblum said. Middle school summer classes typically target eighth grade students who had failed the STAAR exam or specific classes. This year’s program will offer a broader approach including at basic skills remediation.

An earlier plan to have an online option for some summer students was scrapped to keep teacher workloads down, and the loss of an online option may mean the first in-person classes for some summer students in more than a year.

“We weren’t going to have teachers do both. All the teachers who volunteered (for summer school) will be used for face-to-face teaching,” Cornblum said.

Summer school for some students hinges on final grades determined at the end of classes, but 900 elementary, 160 middle school and 670 high school students are enrolled for summer. The middle school enrollment does not include students from Transformation Waco’s G.W. Carver Middle School and Indian Spring Middle School.

Summer school runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, ending July 9.

For students attending the five schools in Transformation Waco, an in-district charter system, summer school will have a slightly different look. Some students’ school days will run longer, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and classes end June 28 to accommodate enrichment programs scheduled next month.

Transformation Waco CEO Robin McDurham said the schools have collaborated with community partners including the YMCA, McLennan Community College’s Kids Camp and the Waco Civic Theatre for July programs aimed at keeping students active while helping recharge them from a draining school year.

Sarah Pedrotti, director of student advocacy, said the partnerships will result in offerings of athletic activities, theater, graphic design and more for about 150 Transformation Waco students. About 200 elementary and 240 middle school students in Transformation Waco schools are enrolled for summer school.

Transformation Waco schools are drawing on teachers and staffers of its Spring Break Academy, who provide extra tutoring and enrichment for some students during spring break, to help in summer school, McDurham said.

A school year upended by COVID-19 has put some students behind, but administrators and teachers are hopeful a month of summer instruction will help them rebound.

“We have a lot of unfinished learning from the spring,” said Karen Hassell, Transformation Waco’s executive director of school leadership. “We’re trying to accelerate kids to help them catch up.”

Classes for Waco ISD’s 2021-22 school year will start Aug. 23.

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