How one district expands the concept of summer learning

Kalamazoo's summer school students will learn about hand-washing, social distancing and other safety protocols
By: | March 16, 2021
(AdobeStock/JackF)Kalamazoo Public Schools will offer more hands-on, project-based learning this summer. (AdobeStock/JackF)

There is no concept of failure during summer instruction at Kalamazoo Public Schools in Michigan, Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri says.

In fact, administrators use the phrase “summer readiness” rather than “summer schools” to describe the activities, which will be held in-person, Raichoudhuri says.

“Our students have been through such a tumultuous time,” she says. “We are really thinking about summer as a way to ease into what normalcy will look like.”

Kalamazoo Public Schools has remained online-only throughout 2020-21, except small groups of the district’s most vulnerable students, Raichoudhuri says.

More on summer school: 3 steps for beefing up summer to counter learning loss

Students who attend summer school will learn about hand-washing, social distancing during recess and the health and safety protocols they will follow during in-person learning in fall 2021.

Of course, there also will be significant academic component. Elementary and middle schoolers will work on math, science, English and social studies as well as social-emotional learning and self-efficacy skills.

The curriculum will emphasize hands-on projects over a pair of three-week sessions.

Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri, Kalamazoo Public Schools in Michigan

Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri, Kalamazoo Public Schools in Michigan

For high school students, the focus will be mainly in credit recovery, Raichoudhuri says.

Though the district is doubling its capacity for its summer programs, the number of students will still be limited based on staffing. The district is increasing the pay structure for summer instruction to incentivize teachers and staff to apply.

Students will participate in summer instruction based on teachers recommendations, rather than on tests scores, Raichoudhuri says.

The district is also working with its community partners, such as a nature center and the city of Kalamazoo, to expand the summer class beyond the classroom.

Students will have a chance to tour college campuses, participate in high school-level certification programs, and take cooking classes, among other special activities.

“Our focus is really going to be about engagement, and academic and social-emotional learning through that process,” Raichoudhuri says. “It’s not necessarily recovery—it’s about re-engagement with the content.”

Raichoudhuri and her team are also looking beyond summer with a COVID recovery plan that will cover plans for enrichment and remediation throuigh 2021-22 school year.

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