With the 2020-21 school year coming to an end, Dawson County School officials are turning their attention towards the summer and learning options to help students catch up or get ahead.
After a school year with many obstacles like students attending virtually or quarantining due to COVID-19, school officials are hopeful that a large number of students will take advantage of summer learning programs in the coming months.
In a presentation to the Board of Education on May 11, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Nicole Lecave said that the school system’s summer program this year will be the largest that they have done in a long time.
“We did not do this last year and we haven’t done a summer school this large in quite a few years,” Lecave said. “Due to the nature of what we’re dealing with, with our students and needing to really focus on their academic needs from being out of school, we’re going to have a large-scale summer school.”
According to Lecave, summer school options will be divided up by age group, with a program for elementary school students in the district, and separate programs for middle, junior high and high school students.
The elementary summer school program, called “Summer Soar”, will meet at Riverview Elementary School on June 1-3, June 7-10 and June 14-17 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. According to Lecave, the goal of the elementary summer program is to get the students excited to attend rather than disappointed about going to school over the summer break.
“We really wanted to make this a positive experience and focus on having fun,” she said. “Some of the schools even made kids feel like, ‘Wow, you’ve been selected to participate in this awesome summer event’ so they’re excited about coming.”
The elementary program is targeting about 156 students with deficits in reading and math, Lecave said. The program will also include enrichment activities, like themed dress days or potential visits from local police officers. The school system is also working on a way to provide transportation for the children to get to the summer program.
“Most of the students that we need at summer school are students that need transportation, so our transportation department is going to work with us and we’ll be ironing out all the details of that,” Lecave said.
Providing transportation for the students in the summer program is something the school system hasn’t done in the past, and Superintendent Damon Gibbs said that giving the option of transportation will make a big difference for the students and their parents.
“We have kids that need summer school every single year,” Gibbs said. “So it’s a game-changer here to be able to do that.”
The Dawson County Middle School summer program will be for sixth and seventh graders and will be from June 1-11 from 8 a.m. to noon at the middle school.
The middle school summer program will target about 50 students in the district who are predicted to receive low scores on the English and math units of the Georgia Milestone Assessment. The middle school program will include hands-on activities and labs to engage the students who participate.
The Dawson County Junior High School summer program will be for 8th and 9th grade students and will be held at Dawson County High School from Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the weeks of June 7, 14 and 21.
Eighth-grade students will receive face-to-face instruction, and ninth graders will take customized courses through the school’s Edgenuity platform. According to Lecave, the school system anticipates about 40 students participating in the junior high school’s program.
The Dawson County High School program is almost identical to the junior high program and will take place during the same time frame as the junior high program. Tenth through 12th-grade students will also take customized courses through Edgenuity.
According to Lecave, both junior high and high school students will have opportunities to make up for poor grades during the summer program.
“We do credit redemption for students who have earned 60 through 69 in the course, so if I get a 65 and take the pre-test the course is customized for me,” Lecave said. “They offer credit recovery for students that score below a 59 in the course, so they get the whole course, not the revised course — they take a pre-test and it puts them in where they need to be in the course in order for them to earn that credit.”
In addition to all of the summer learning programs, Dawson County Schools will also offer an extended school year for kids in the “Exceptional Students” program. That program will be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon on June 7-18 at Riverview Elementary School. It will continue the students’ individualized learning plans from the 2020-21 school year.
According to Lecave, 23 students from elementary and middle school will be attending the extended school year program.
All summer school programs offered by the district will be at no cost to the students, and breakfast and lunch will be provided each day. The program will be run by about 24 staff members, seven administrators, as well as nutrition staff, student resource officers and transportation staff.
In total, the summer program will serve approximately 275 students.
“This is a lot more students than we’ve had in our program,” Lecave said. “And that’ll make a world of difference for our teachers when we start back next year.”