US schools prepare summer of learning to help kids catch up

Full Screen
1 / 4

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2020, file photo, students wear protective masks as they arrive for classes at the Immaculate Conception School while observing COVID-19 prevention protocols in The Bronx borough of New York. Schools and camps across the county are making plans to help kids catch up academically this summer after a year or more of remote learning for many of them. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

MISSION, Kan. – After a dreary year spent largely at home in front of the computer, many U.S. children could be looking at summer school — and that's just what many parents want.

Although the last place most kids want to spend summer is in a classroom, experts say that after a year of interrupted study, it’s crucial to do at least some sort of learning over the break, even if it’s not in school and is incorporated into traditional camp offerings.

Several governors, including in California, Kansas and Virginia, are pushing for more summer learning. And some states are considering extending their 2021-22 academic year or starting the fall semester early. Many cities, meanwhile, are talking about beefing up their summer school programs, including Los Angeles, Hartford, Connecticut and Atlanta — the latter of which considered making summer school compulsory before settling for strongly recommending that kids who are struggling take part.

“People are exhausted right now, but they know that it is really important for our kids,” said Randi Weingarten, the head of American Federation of Teachers, who has been calling for what she described as a voluntary “second second semester” and for districts to start recruiting for it.

The new $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package should help, as it allocates $122 billion in aid to K-12 public schools, including $30 billion specifically for summer school, after-school and other enrichment programs.

The influx of money and increase in summer offerings has come as a relief to parents of kids who struggled with remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic. Among them is Ashley Freeman, of St. Paul, Minnesota, who quit her nursing assistant job when the pandemic began so that she could help her kids learn from home and because a frightening past bout with the H1N1 flu that landed her on a ventilator.

Freeman, 32, is eager to get back to work after having to rely on food stamps and other benefits to get through the pandemic. She feels her kids have fallen behind academically and is hoping they'll catch up over the break — her district recently extended its summer program by two weeks.

“I need something where they keep their education going because they have lacked this entire last year,” she said late last month about an hour after her 11-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son returned to in-person classes for the first time in nearly a year. “I feel like the kids have struggled tremendously.”