MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Marion County Public Schools says it is holding its largest summer school program in the past 15 years. While some staff members said it will help struggling students during the pandemic, others said it’s going to take a lot longer for students to catch up.
[Video correction: Marion County’s 2021 summer school program is the largest its held in the past 15 years. We do not have evidence that it’s the largest summer school program the district has ever held.]
“We saw a lot of students doing online learning which was great safety-wise, but we found a lot of students were not being successful online. They didn’t have the same engagement with the material or with their teacher,” Reading Coach Stephanie Hall said.
Some Ocala Springs Elementary Students like Demitri agree.
“It was difficult online because in the afternoons it would lag a lot. I couldn’t do any experiments and sometimes my mom couldn’t go to the school to pick up materials,” Fifth Grader Demitri said.
The district reported about 7,000 students registered this year for summer classes, nearly three times the normal attendance. Typically, the district would hold summer school for about 2,000 to 3,000 students.
The district brought back more staff and teachers so that more students can catch up over the summer. This year, the summer school program was open to almost every student. Educators said summer school is just the beginning.
“We’re looking at several years of planning. Collecting data to see where the deficits are, where we missed the mark and how we can grow our students,” Hall said.
With just a few weeks of classes, some students said they are already seeing improvement.
“I’m learning a little bit better now that we’re in class,” Demitri said.
“It’s helping us remember a lot,” Fourth Grader Isabella said.
“I don’t like summer school, but I know it helps me get better,” Fourth Grader Jermaine said.
To supplement summer school, many schools within the district like Ocala Springs Elementary are coming up with a tutoring program to help those students bridge that learning gap next school year.