School boards in action: Summer learning on the horizon

Up and down California, local educational agency boards are working tirelessly to make sure students can safely return to campus as quickly as possible in areas that are still in distance learning, and have everything they need to be academically, social-emotionally and physically supported — no matter which mode of learning they are in.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced March 8 that 200,000 educators across the state had been vaccinated in the prior week alone, when the state began allocating 10 percent of its vaccine supply to K-12 educators and school staff. The state set a target goal of vaccinating 75,000 educators per week and had already exceeded that — no doubt with the help of local educational agencies throughout California.

This represents a significant step forward toward reopening more campuses for in-person learning, y but helping to facilitate teacher vaccines is just one step LEAs are taking to prepare. Many are looking ahead to summer and developing programming that is both intensive and engaging in order to best address the learning loss children have experienced during this past year of distance learning.

The San Diego Unified School Board approved during its March 9 meeting $22 million in spending for an expanded in-person and online summer school program to help students improve their grades, which have been impacted by the pandemic and disruptions to learning.

The district will offer an in-person summer program for four hours a day for elementary school students — which will be paired with some hours of online learning — and on-campus, half-day summer programs for middle and high school students, which may include field experiences such as internships. There will also be community in-person summer enrichment programs that will be free to San Diego Unified students. Summer school will be optional, and priority will be given to academically struggling students, but Superintendent Cindy Marten said San Diego USD wants to make summer school available to all students who want to participate.

In addition, the district will offer a six-week online credit recovery program for high school students through its virtual school, iHigh. The need for the accelerated learning plan is significant, as one in five San Diego USD high school students are not on track to graduate this June, district officials reported.

West Contra Costa USD officials presented their plans at a school board meeting Feb. 24 to confront widespread learning loss and prepare students of all grades for the “new normal” of returning to the classroom by enhancing its summer school.

Scheduled to begin June 14, the program goes beyond the district’s typical summer offerings and includes credit recovery opportunities at every high school, college preparedness and special education programs, as well as “bridge programming” to get students who will be going to new schools in the fall, such as eighth graders moving on to high school or sophomores whose freshman high school year was spent online, ready for the next year. Bridge programs connect students with campus leaders, help them navigate a new and often larger campus and help them acclimate to academic and social expectations as a high school student.

The curriculum for general education classes during the summer will include literacy and math intervention for all students, project-based or hands-on learning and English learner-specific programs, and incorporate social-emotional learning. Teachers can volunteer to work during the summer, and if the district is unable to get enough volunteers to meet the demand for the four-day-a-week classes, it will consider hiring teachers from outside the district, said West Contra Costa USD Associate Superintendent of Business services Tony Wold.

School boards celebrate and support staff and students

  • To increase support to the community, Santa Ana USD announced March 4 it would begin serving weekend meals to all children on Fridays.
  • The Tulare County Office of Education opened a virtual gallery with over 1,200 works in dance, media arts, music, theatre and visual arts to celebrate National Arts Education Month and recognize the impact the arts have had this past year.
  • Porterville USD’s Monache High School hosted Maintenance Worker Appreciation Day March 5 for all district maintenance workers with a breakfast, including items made by Academy of Hospitality career pathway students and signs made by Monache High ASB.
  • The Bonita USD vaccination clinic completed vaccinating elementary school staff and began moving on to secondary staff March 4, signaling significant progress toward reopening.
  • Debra Schade (vice president of the Solana Beach School District board, CSBA delegate, CSBA Region 17 Director, interim San Diego County School Boards Association president and State Community Vaccine Advisory Committee representative) was named the recipient of the 2021 Dede Alpert Award on March 9 for her significant contributions to public education.