Alaska school leaders prepare summer school options to slow pandemic ‘slide’

Margaret McIntyre shows students how to use sandpaper to make their dorodangos smooth and shiny on February 13, 2020. McIntyre teaches IGNITE sessions for fifth graders at Oceanview Elementary. She said academically gifted students greatly benefit from the pull out structure of the IGNITE program. (Mayowa Aina/Alaska Public Media)

The regular school year is almost over but many of Alaska’s students will be participating in summer school. 

School leaders from across the state are preparing to offer bigger and broader summer school programs to help students catch up after a year of mixed learning styles including remote, hybrid, and in-person learning due to the pandemic.

In Anchorage, Deputy Superintendent Mark Stock said the district plans to have as many as 12,000 students in its summer school program. It’s one of the largest summer schools the district has ever offered. 

The summer school will focus on basic skills and fun activities too, Stock said on Talk of Alaska Tuesday. But, Stock said, people should temper their expectations of what the program can do. In normal years, students experience learning loss referred to as a ‘summer slide.’ 

LISTEN: Talk of Alaska: How are districts planning to catch students up this summer?

The district is still trying to quantify how much learning loss has happened over the pandemic school year, Stock said. 

“We hope that our summer school programs will engage kids, and perhaps, if nothing else, slow the slide or stop the slide. But I think it’s over optimistic to think half a day, four days a week is going to close all the learning gaps that took a year to develop,” Stock said.

The goal is to get students connected to school and resume a sense of normalcy, Stock said.

Hoonah City Schools will offer a traditional summer school to its 140 students for the first time in recent years, Superintendent Ralph Watkins said.

“We do want to help kids that may need a little extra help in getting ahead or catching up with the traditional math and reading focused summer school. But this year, we’re really going to look at offering just a wider selection of courses.”

In addition to helping students catch up, the district will offer courses like welding and formline drawing, as well as opportunities to move ahead including college coursework, Watkins said.  

“I know parents just want to see their kids back in school and engaged in learning. And so we’re going to facilitate that the best way that we can.”

Like Stock, Watkins said the district is focused on reestablishing and rebuilding its relationship with students.

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