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Colorado schools plan for summer school, but is it the right solution for learning loss?

During the pandemic some students fell behind
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Posted at 8:48 AM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 10:48:31-04

DENVER -- With just weeks left in the school year in Colorado, kids of all ages are looking forward to summer break. Kaylyn Townsend, a junior at Golden High School, said this was her hardest school year ever.

“I know the seniors have a raging case of senior-itis,” she added.

Kaylyn was able to keep her grades up amid the inconsistencies of the pandemic school year, but other students suffered. Ryder Lohman, a 7th grader at Falcon Bluffs Middle School in Littleton, said he struggled to stay motivated during remote learning.

“I used to be straight A's and now I'm averaging a C to a B, which is definitely not good for me,” said Lohman.

Lohman is hoping he can catch up next year, but other students will be spending time in summer school to make up credits or to avoid additional learning loss. Denver7 spoke to school leaders and education experts about different approaches to summer learning.

The Poudre School District in Fort Collins was one of the first districts to announce free summer programming for all grades. Poudre Schools director of professional learning, Kate Canine, said they felt some kids might need the additional boost before going in to next school year.

“We want to mitigate additional summer slide and we know that the way to do that is to make it fun, make it engaging, focus on the academics, but not solely on the academics,” said Canine.

Some of the programs will be more like camp while others will feature one-on-one time with teachers. PSD isn’t the only district providing a free summer school option. Denver Public Schools is offering the DPS Summer Academy for kids who need extra reading help, as well as English language learners.

But experts at the National Education Policy Center at CU Boulder warn against too much focus on remediation or “catching up.”

“If you build a program around the idea that we're bringing together failing children, it's really hard to then design any kind of program that makes those kids feel invested in learning over the summer,” said Michelle Renee Valladares, associate director of the NEPC.

Many teenagers also work in the summer. That’s something Adams 14, a high poverty school district, is taking into consideration as they plan their summer credit recovery options. Adams City High School Principal Paul Sandos said they’ll allow juniors and seniors to do online courses this summer. But for younger students, he’s hoping some will take advantage of a summer boot camp the district is offering.

“I want to be in the pool on Friday, making cardboard boats and seeing who's floats the longest while we're talking about surface tension, I want to be able to have that fun with kids in the summer,” said Sandos.

One group trying to make the summer fun and educational is the Recovery Summer Coalition. Advocates formed the coalition earlier this year to encourage community facilities to partner with school districts. Recovery Summer just put out a request for proposals and will provide grants to several community partners offering free educational summer programming to kids.

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