CHARLES TOWN – A summer schooling break could be short-lived for more Jefferson County students this year.
With the coronavirus restrictions halting classroom learning for a quarter of the current academic year, summer school programs might benefit many more students to keep their education development on track and on pace.
Jefferson County Schools officials are rushing to develop more classroom and online learning opportunities for students and parents this summer. They’re also preparing to provide more catch-up instruction and special academic support for more students at all grades and achievement levels when schools reopen for the upcoming school year.
“We haven’t really talked about timelines, but in my vision, I’m seeing pretty much the whole school year,” Shawn Dilly, the county school system’s supervisor of instruction, said of the extra academic bolstering that could take place. “Some of these supports may fade out after the first few months, but then I could see some of them extending into the fall of the school year.”
Boosting students’ learning in the core subjects of math, reading and English will be a major focus for teachers and instructional leaders, Dilly said. But how much extra instruction students and parents might want or need this summer or at the start of the next school year isn’t clear yet, he said.
“Learning loss” is a new teaching term that has cropped up to describe the regression of academic skills many students are likely experiencing as they are forced to continue their learning at home and online. Typically the summer months have been reserved for remedial learning for some; this year, summer school could be for nearly everyone.
“It’s something that we are looking at and responding to in various ways,” Dilly said. “But we’re looking at summer programs and after-school programs as well as some other activities and things to help with this loss of instructional time that we’ve seen.”
A mix of new classroom and online programs are expected to be developed for voluntary summer enrollment, Dilly said. Parents should look for announcements from the school system this month, he said.
“Obviously, we made a pretty quick transition [to online during the stay-home quarantine] and we’ve navigated as best we could some of the transitions,” Dilly said. “But we do know that there are folks that are not obviously getting the same levels of [educational] exposure and support as others. So we feel it’s going to be important that we address it in various forms.”
School officials are still learning and anticipating what might be the impact on their students’ academic development, Dilly said. Some students’ relearning will require some academic adjustments and redirections, he said.
“We have to try to figure out all the pieces and parts as we move forward,” he said.
School officials are still working around the uncertainty of when county classrooms can reopen for summer programs, which is still an obstacle Dilly said. Whether schools will be able to reopen on time for the upcoming school year is not known for sure, he said.
Dilly said the online learning programs made available to students during the virus outbreak offers advantages and disadvantages. “Teachers are doing a variety of different things with the online programs, but we still feel that there’s going to be a need for a more traditional approach to try to support kids once we’re able to return to the classroom,” he said.
Some children benefit more with hands-on instruction than they would with either online or traditional textbook learning, Dilly said. “It’s not for every student,” he added of online instruction.
But one advantage the school system’s online learning has provided is additional flexibility for when and where students can learn, Dilly said. The virtual realm also opens up a broad array of possible in-depth and individualized instruction options that a classroom environment with 20 or more students can’t provide, he said. The county school system is continuing to explore how to deliver more accelerated or advance learning online.
“We’re going to have to try to continue our traditional approaches — as well as support more of our virtual school approaches — to try to move our district forward in what our parents are asking for and what our community is demanding,” he said.
“What the circumstances [from the coronavirus quarantine] have done is forced us to ramp up a lot of that much quicker,” he said.
Meanwhile, now is a good time for every parent to review of what academic refreshers their children might benefit from, whether this summer and during the regular school year, Dilly said. Parents can also consider a variety of free online childhood development, lessons and courses from outside the school system, he said.
“We want to encourage any parent to get involved with their child’s education as much as possible and do as much as they can,” he said. “There’s just a variety of different opportunities they can take advantage of and we encourage all learning opportunities.”