The year of recovery: Schools use summer months to intervene amid pandemic learning loss

·2 min read

Jul. 24—WAPAKONETA — Wapakoneta schools gave parents the option to send their children back to the classroom last August.

Student reading scores still dipped halfway through the school year, as some students stayed home or were quarantined for extended periods. Others struggled to stay engaged amid a pandemic that disrupted nearly every aspect of their lives.

"We're seeing a lot more families in crisis," said Carrie Knoch, director of student achievement for Wapakoneta schools. "That hurts the kids as well, in terms of what they're able to pay attention to at school and do in school."

Wapakoneta schools and other area districts are relying on targeted interventions and summer school programs to re-acclimate students who spent months in distance learning and ensure others don't fall further behind.

At Wapakoneta schools, the redesigned summer school program saw attendance nearly double with 270 incoming students in kindergarten through eighth grade who spent the past six weeks immersed in phonics, phonemic awareness, etymology and reading comprehension lessons designed to prepare them for the new year.

The program was revamped to emphasize that summer learning isn't a punishment but rather an option for students who fell behind to catch up with their peers, Knoch said.

At Lima schools, summer school is now summer camp.

Students designed their own theater sets and analyzed crime scenes. Others spent weeks fusing glass, making pillows or learning about oceanic exploration, a hands-on approach to summer learning that Lima schools implemented to re-engage students after a difficult 18 months.

"They don't even realize they're learning things," said Joanna Walt, a theater and dance instructor at Liberty Arts Magnet School who taught yoga and drama camps this summer.

Walt had her students write and perform original plays, allowing the class to explore every aspect of theater through writing, acting, directing and filming. Students even had the opportunity to design their own costumes and props.

"We needed to make a fun adventure in learning for the summer," Walt said.

Elida schools will start its summer reading intervention for elementary students in August, during which students in need of additional attention will spend three days each week taking an adaptive online reading program.

The incoming third-grade class saw the most learning loss last fall, said Mellani Cady, a Title I reading teacher at Elida Elementary. Other students fared better than expected, Cady said, with the exception of those who transitioned back and forth from the classroom and online learning.

Even when students completed their assignments on time, Cady said there was only so much teachers could do to reach kids via Zoom. The constant changes were "disruptive to their learning" and caused some students to fall behind.

"There was no consistency with what they were doing," Cady said.

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