Not all Kansas students who need to attend summer school will

WICHITA – One thing the world has learned during the pandemic is that school children lose their rhythm when Zoom replaces the classroom.

“There has been an academic slip,” said Andi Giesen, assistant superintendent of learning services for the Wichita district. “On a previous trajectory, we would have expected students to be perhaps a little further along in their learning. “

Enter the summer school.

In the past, a relatively small fraction of students had to spend scorching days catching up with their classmates. In the fall of 2021, a much larger number of Kansas students will enter their next year without the skills they should have learned last year.

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As a result, a record number of Kansas youth are considering attending summer school.

But even more school children who need to catch up will not go. Many students, families and teachers say they need a break from the start and end of a mad pandemic year, and they have pulled out of summer school.

“It has been a really incredibly difficult year,” said Kari Ritter, Topeka teacher and district summer program coordinator. “I think parents are ready to give their kids a break. We certainly see it.

Educators concerned about loss of income

Soon after Kansas Governor Laura Kelly kicked the kids out of school over a year ago, educators and politicians began to talk about the loss of learning.

Congress has approved three COVID-19 relief programs that will send an estimated $ 130 billion directly to K-12 schools – money districts can spend to reopen safely and help young people who have fallen behind. Kansas will receive approximately $ 1.3 billion over three years.

Still, a significant number of families tired of caring for school-aged children during a pandemic lasting more than a year do not seem eager to rush to school this summer.

“We’re really looking forward to just… having a good time this summer,” said Emily Millspaugh, a mother of two who also teaches kindergarten at Corn. “All of our children, their bodies crave interaction, movement and exploration that they may not have been able to do this school year.”

Some parents say summer school helps get their kids back into a routine while also interacting with teachers and peers.

Millspaugh has not considered enrolling his daughters, Murphy and Wren, in any formal school program this summer. Now that she and her husband are vaccinated, they are taking a trip to the beach that was canceled last year. The family have a new Labradoodle puppy, Ollie, and plan to relax and play.

“We can’t wait to make up for lost time,” said Millspaugh. “And really having the opportunity to say ‘Yes, let’s do these things’, when we’ve had to say ‘no’ for so long.”

Wichita, the state’s largest school district, sent out about 21,500 invitations to its summer programs for kindergarten to grade eight students. Despite incentives like free breakfast, lunch and transportation, only 4,600 people – about one in five – signed up.

“But I think it’s every year: you’re going to invite a bunch of students, whether it’s a COVID year or not, and you’re probably only going to have half of them coming again,” Amanda Kingrey said. , Deputy Superintendent of Wichita High Schools. “So I think we’ve achieved that (target). “

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Teachers weren’t quick to sign up either. The Topeka School District has offered teachers more than double the regular summer school rate this year – the money they have in hand from the first round of federal aid – and has always struggled to find takers .

“It’s a real challenge,” said Ritter, the Topeka coordinator. “But on the other hand, we also didn’t get the listing we had been considering.”

Ritter’s eighth-grade daughter was not interested in the catalog of classes and camps offered in Topeka.

“I asked about some fun classes and she said, ‘No! “And I’m okay with that,” Ritter said. “I totally agree with her, I’m just taking a mental break and I know next summer will be different.”

Some enroll in summer school for the routine

Other parents said they used summer school to get their children back into a routine and interact with teachers and peers.

“When they were home for a while… they certainly weren’t learning as much as they were in school,” said Kristin Marlett, a Wichita mother of two.

She said she wanted her sons, Oliver and Elliott, to receive extra help with their reading this summer, so she enrolled them in the half-day summer camp at their elementary school in Wichita.

“I feel like it’s not a punishment for them to go to summer school, because I think they’re going to have fun,” she said. “They love being around other kids, they love to learn, and they will be great at it.”

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It’s hard to say precisely how late students could be after more than a year of pandemic learning. The US Department of Education waived federal testing requirements after schools closed for in-person instruction last spring.

States were required to administer the annual reading and math tests this year, but the Biden administration allowed flexible options such as shortened tests and a longer testing window. Kansas school results won’t be released until July or August.

Education officials say they can’t predict how long the recovery will take. But they’re playing the game for the long haul, already planning summer programs in 2022 and beyond.

“It can bounce back quickly. We just don’t know, because we’ve never experienced this type of loss, ”said Randy Watson, Kansas Education Commissioner. “But we hope that with several summer schools, several extended years, tutoring services, we can make up for it.”

Suzanne Perez reports on education for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service.

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