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East County Wednesday, May 20, 2020 4 months ago

Summer school attendance could drop in Manatee County

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Students and their parents might need a break from e-learning.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Summer school participation in the School District of Manatee County could be limited because parents need a break.

The district has announced it will be offering all required summer programs, including a third grade reading camp, credit recovery for middle and high school students, a voluntary pre-K program and an extended school year program for exceptional students, with classes being conducted via Schoology, the school district’s online learning platform.

The concern is that students who normally might participate in summer school to catch up on needed credits or to brush up on skills are facing a different landscape. E-learning could mean parent supervision.

Genelle Zoratti-Yost, the deputy superintendent of instructional services for the district, said the district could see a decrease in the number of students participating in summer programs as a result of them being conducted virtually.

“I’ve heard from some parents who said, ‘I think we just need a break for the summer,’” Zoratti-Yost said. “It depends on what is occurring in their home, what the environment is. Do they have a place to study and learn? Is the child motivated? Every child is different. Every learning environment is different when it’s virtual and instruction moves into the home.”

The programs will be conducted similar to how students have been learning since the district had to move to e-learning March 30 as a result of COVID-19.

The third grade reading camp, which is offered from June 1-30, focuses on  reading skills, so students can be promoted to the fourth grade.

Students will participate in small online classes four days per week for four weeks.

At the end of each week, the district will assess whether the virtual approach is meeting students’ needs, Zoratti-Yost said.

“We are going to continue to assess student progress through a teacher assessment at the end of each week to grab hold of the type of progress being made by each student,” she said. “We don’t want them off track. This time is to close the learning gap. We want instructional gains to be made. We want to monitor our students closely during this period.”

As of May 14, 407 third graders were invited to participate in the reading camp.

Middle and high school students who need to complete a course they did not finish during the school year can earn those credits over the summer. If students choose not to participate in credit recovery, they can make up the class next year.

For the VPK program, the Florida Department of Education requires the district to offer 300 hours of VPK instruction over the summer, which will be conducted online.

“We are concerned about the virtual platform meeting the needs of our students, but we have not received any direction from the Department of Education at this time that it can be canceled,” Zoratti-Yost said.

Exceptional students could have an extended school year based on their individual education plans.

If the recommendation is for the student to participate in the program, then they do so during the summer but online.

Students who need devices from the district will be able to keep the devices they have or request a device from the district. Wi-Fi buses will continue to go to locations throughout the county for students who need access to the internet.

Although the district continues to host all required programs, some activities have been canceled.

For the first time in 19 years, the Acting Up Performing Arts Summer Camp at Lakewood Ranch High School will not be held.

“It’s disappointing and devastating,” said Roxane Caravan, head of the Lakewood Ranch High Theatre Department. “We pretty much have the same group of kids that come year after year. Working with kindergarten through middle school age kids is awesome and refreshing. It’s a whole other perspective for us.”

About 50 students in kindergarten through middle school were looking forward to performing “Moana Jr.” this summer as part of the three-week performing arts camp.

Caravan hopes to move the camp to an after-school program in the fall.

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