SPECIAL REPORT: COVID-19 impact on summer school programs

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SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Due to COVID-19 last school year, students and their parents had to decide whether to learn in person, at home, or a little bit of both. For many, it also included a few weeks out of the classroom because of quarantine.

No matter a student’s situation, everyone had to make adjustments, which resulted in learning loss for some.

Melissa Fink with the Springdale School District said it has been a year unlike any other when it comes to students enrolled in summer school.

“Our secondary schools had the biggest number of students participate than they’d ever seen before,” she said.

A record-breaking turnout… and it was not just for any student.

“Our students were selected because they had a lot of learning loss because of the pandemic, and so we were very targeted in who we invited into the summer school program,” Fink said.

Those K-12 students selected added up to almost 2,500. For some students, not attending could come with major consequences.

“Elementary and middle school-we would work really hard the next year to catch them up, but for our secondary students, it’s critical because they have to have credits and without summer program they wouldn’t be able to advance to the next level,” Fink said.

The need to catch up is happening all over northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.

In Rogers, different elementary schools came together to get students back on track-specifically in math and literacy- before the next school year.

“Some of these students missed a lot of school,” said Assistant Principal at Tucker Elementary, Brian Anderson. “That was one of the things we looked at in choosing what students were gonna be coming into the program.”

However, there can sometimes be a stigma surrounding summer school and the need to catch up.

As a result, both Rogers and Springdale schools worked all summer to make the program feel a little less like normal school days.

“We want some STEM activities and camp kind of activities and games and fun stuff to make sure it’s the kind of thing kids want to come back to,” Anderson said.

For Springdale Schools, this meant incorporating literacy, arts, technology and more into elementary and middle school programs and partnering secondary students with community programs for field trips.

Fink said the Springdale School District was able to recover almost 1,500 credits for those secondary students who had to take summer school classes to advance next year.

Both Fink and Anderson said of the hundreds of elementary and middle school students who attended programs in Rogers and Springdale, they feel they are further along than last year and more confident heading into next school year.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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