Ohio district highlights 3 extended learning efforts
In extending the school year to tackle COVID learning loss, leaders of the South-Western City School District in Ohio are focused on June, August and fall 2021.
Those dates may sound obvious to some but a deeper dive into the details should provide leaders of other districts with some guidance as they extend the year or revamp summer school.
In the 21,000-student South-Western City School District, which is outside Columbus, extended learning begins when school ends in June. K-6 students will take online classes led by a certified teacher, says Brian Bowser, the executive director of elementary education.
The district’s central office will target students who had success with online learning, and will offer as many spots as possible, depending on how many teachers apply to the program, Bowser says.
The 2.5-hour sessions will target literacy and math skills.
“Our goals are trifold: can we close some gaps, can we keep children in engaged in learning, and can we keep them connected with a trust adult,” Bowser says.
At the same, high schools will also be offering credit recovery programs while other buildings will run language and literacy camps for English-learners. Special education programs also will continue into the summer.
The central office programs will pause in July so students can enjoy the summer as, hopefully, communities regain a sense of normalcy as more people are vaccinated against COVID, Bowser says.
In August, extended learning will expand to K-8 and serve as a “back to school workshop,” Bowser says.
Classes will be organized in small groups and take place in-person to help students acclimate to a typical school routine.
“We’ll have an eye on skills but also on engaging students back into a brick-and-mortar setting, which some have been out of for rover a year,” Bowser says. “We want them to feel comfortable wearing a mask and that school is a safe place to be.”
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Plans for fall 2021 are still being developed, but the central office envisions providing resources to building leaders to create additonal extended learning opportunities, such as tutoring and after-school camps.
District data shows students in fall 2020 performed at closed to the same level in literacy as they did in fall 2019, before the COVID outbreak and shifts to online learning, Bowser says.
Administrators have identified bigger gaps in math, he says.
“Headlines will say our children have fallen behind,” Bowser says. “As educators, we have to look forward that some of our students have learned in new ways, such as by cooking with their families. Another outcome could be the students have developed a new level of independence and self awareness.”