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More than 1,100 students chosen for SCS’s summer learning program

Stanly County Schools is less than a week away from the start of its inaugural six-week summer learning program, which begins June 14.

The program, which every school district in the state is required to offer, is intended to help address the learning loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea for a learning recovery and enrichment program originated in the General Assembly earlier this year with House Bill 82, which was co-sponsored by a host of representatives including Wayne Sasser (R-Stanly).

School districts must offer students at least 150 hours, or 30 days, of summer in-person instruction. The program is prioritized for at-risk students and at risk of failure, but attendance is voluntary and is open to any student.

“I’m hopeful that an extra 150 hours over the course of the summer will have a significant impact on them,” said Dr. Amy Blake-Lewis, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “By having this offered to them through the summer, they will keep in that routine of coming to school and having a teacher checking in with them…and that we won’t see as much of that learning loss and those students when they come back towards the end of August, they will have closed some of those gaps and be ready for the next grade level.”

SCS will specifically offer 150 hours of in-person instruction, Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The program will run from June 14-July 1 and July 12-29. The 150 hours will not include time for lunch and breakfast service, transition periods between classes and the required daily physical activity period.

The summer learning programs are slated to run each year through 2024, with each one costing the school system about $500,000.

In order to help address the impacts of the pandemic, including addressing learning loss through learning programs, school districts have received funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund), which is part of the CARES Act. SCS is set to receive $6.9 million through ESSER II funding, which runs through September 2023, and $15.5 million through ESSER III funding, which runs through September 2024.

Specifics about the K-12 Summer Program

A survey was sent out to families a few weeks ago gauging which students planned to participate in the program. After receiving about 1,500 responses from the survey, the school system has chosen more than 1,100 students to participate in the learning program.

The school system relied on elementary and middle school students’ test scores on their end-of-year iReady assessments they took last month to determine the ones most at need for the extra instruction. Students who scored below grade level, coded as either red or yellow, were the first wave of students chosen.

There are 615 elementary students that will take part in the program, which accounts for over half of the total student population, along with 60 teachers and teacher assistants.

Elementary students will be housed at two locations throughout the summer: 225 students in kindergarten and first grade will be at East Albemarle Elementary and 391 students in second through fifth grade will be at Central Elementary.

Students in kindergarten through second grade will get instruction in reading and math. Students in third through eighth grade will get instruction in reading, math and science.

At the middle school level, there are 398 students and 47 teachers and the instruction will take place at Albemarle Middle School. There are 160 sixth grade students, 110 seventh grade students and 128 eighth grade students.

K-8 students are also required to get a period of physical activity and at least one enrichment activity, such as sports, music and arts.

Though the numbers for high school students are still in flux, Blake-Lewis estimates there will be somewhere between 120 to 150 students and they will also be located at Albemarle Middle. There will be 22 teachers.

High school students will receive in-person instruction in end-of-course subjects (English 2, Math 1 and 3 and Biology) and an elective course. They will get access to online courses to help them pass courses they failed during the regular school year.

Students will receive a bagged breakfast as they enter school and, unlike the past year, they will eat in the cafeteria for lunch. Students and teachers will also be required to wear masks and maintain three feet of distance.

Aside from kindergarten students, each school’s principal will reassess the students who were retained for the 2021-2022 school year to see if they can be promoted upon completion of the program. This will be based on results of a competency-based i-Ready assessment given to K-8 students at the end of the program. Blake-Lewis said for students who barely missed out on being promoted, simply attending the summer program will be “a huge factor” in deciding if they can move to the next grade level.

School districts have until Oct. 15 to report to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction the results of the i-Ready assessments, along with the number of students who progressed to the next grade level after participating in the program and the number of students who were retained in the same grade level.

Of the teachers who are set to participate in the program, Blake-Lewis said about 95 percent are current SCS teachers. While the school system would welcome any additional teachers, at this time Blake-Lewis said there are enough teachers to serve the student population (though the system is still working to identify special education teachers). There are also enough cafeteria workers, though she wasn’t sure about the status of bus drivers.

“We always need bus drivers,” Blake-Lewis said, noting the SCS is currently working on the summer bus routes.

Certified staff that have earned National Board Certification will receive $40 per hour along with a bonus of $1,000 per three-week session. Certified staff will receive a bonus of $600 per three-week session.

The school system has purchased six-week specialized summer curriculums for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, which is designed to hit the major standards from each grade level and alleviate some of the teacher workload.

“We wanted to make sure we were not adding a lot of extra work to the teachers because we’re very aware they’ve put in a lot of hours this year,” Blake-Lewis said.

In addition to mitigating learning loss, students also have a chance to get vaccinated. The health department and Stanly County Schools will sponsor two vaccination events for kids ages 12 and up at Albemarle Middle School in the coming weeks — one on June 23 and the other on July 14, both from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Families of students can also get vaccinated at these events.

Summer meal program

Similar to last year, SCS will offer a summer meal program to children ages infant to 18 in the community, regardless of whether they are enrolled in the school system.

The program will be offered every Monday through Thursday at Central Elementary from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. It will be a drive-through format and families will receive lunch and a breakfast for the next day.

The summer meal program will run until Aug. 12, though it will be closed July 5-9.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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