Anticipation swirls around in-person summer school in Janesville, Milton

Benjamin Pierce, The Janesville Gazette, Wis.
·4 min read

Apr. 8—After spending last summer staring at computer screens and talking to peers over video meetings, Janesville and Milton students will get a more traditional summer school experience this year.

Both school districts will offer live, in-person educational programming beginning in June.

Swim lessons are returning in Janesville with smaller classes to allow for social distancing. Lessons will last 30 minutes instead of the usual 45 minutes to accommodate more classes.

A summer musical and programming at the Janesville Schools Outdoor Lab also will return, along with transition classes for kids entering a new school and traditional themed summer school.

Just 10 minutes after registration opened for the Janesville School District's summer school Monday, nearly 1,000 students had signed up for classes.

Summer school coordinator Paul Stengel said a return to fun classes will be a welcome change from the intensity of regular K-12 curriculum and virtual learning for some students.

"I think having the kids in the buildings and in a social setting" will be nice, Stengel said. "Summer school isn't as academically intense as during the regular school year. And I'm hoping that it also is an opportunity for those families that have been at ARISE in our virtual programming all year, that it kind of provides like a little transition if they're going to be heading back into the classroom in the fall.

"Maybe it gives the families a chance to see kind of a comfort level, I guess, to see what was happening in the schools in the summer and getting the kids reacclimated to being around classmates and giving them that social and emotional development, as well," he said.

Summer school for elementary and middle school students will begin June 7 and run through July 2. High school students working to recover class credits will do so through ARISE, the district's virtual school.

Stengel said the district is preparing for more students than normal for academic classes, but he wasn't sure of an exact number. Those classes will run through July 15.

Milton School District students also will return to classrooms this summer for a wide range of courses from math to music to art.

"Essentially, these are classes that are designed for students to get into school, have some fun, stay connected and learn along the way. So we're happy to say we have so many classes being offered," said Harmony Elementary Principal Sarah Stuckey, who coordinates Milton's summer school program.

After a scaled-back virtual program last summer, students appear to be excited for a more traditional experience. Many classes are at capacity as hundreds of students have registered, but some spots remain open.

Stuckey recommended that parents reach out to the summer school office to inquire about class openings. She said the strong interest is a good sign.

About 40 classes will run from June 7 through July 2 with the exception of the high school credit recovery program, which will last for an additional two weeks.

The district will also offer a "jump start" program in August to get kindergartners through eighth-graders ready for the next school year. Registration information for those classes will be sent to families later this summer.

"It's really going to be kind of laser focused on a couple of key standards at each of those grade levels," Stuckey said. "We'll pick a couple of standards, and then we will be recommending students that could really benefit from working on those skills. And those will typically be academic prerequisite skills that will help them kind of get a boost going into the next school year."

Stuckey said she is most impressed by the number of teachers who said they wanted to teach this summer after a stressful pandemic year.

In-person summer school wouldn't be possible without them, she said.

"Coming off of a year-plus of teaching and learning in a pandemic, the fact that we have so many staff that are still willing to come and teach summer school is just phenomenal," Stuckey said. "We're really excited we can offer this, and a lot of that is thanks to them."