By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Millions of dollars are at work this summer to ensure students get the remediation and enrichment classes they need to get back on track and prepare for the next level of schooling, especially so in the wake of pandemic learning setbacks.
“We’re very excited about this; it is the largest number of students that we have ever been able to serve in Hillsborough County public schools during the summer,” said Terry Connor, Hillsborough’s deputy superintendent and chief academic officer. “This year, with the assistance of the American Rescue Act, we have been able to invest more than $18 million to serve our students, all the way from K-12.”
According to program documents, the 2022 Summer Learning Program (SLP) “is designed to provide continuity of learning, strengthen core content understanding and minimize the impact of COVID-19 related disruption.” Key focus areas include elementary literacy, middle school grade enhancement, high school credit recovery and enrichment opportunities.
“We know that over the past two years that learning loss has been exacerbated, not only locally but throughout the state and nationally,” said Addison Davis, superintendent of schools. “So being able to leverage federal dollars to really help us have a robust experience [for students], it just means a lot.”
Connor agreed, noting that the past “two years have been very, very trying, not only for our teachers and staff but for our families and students.” Learning loss “is a real condition that we’re all dealing with,” he added, “and we know that the impacts are going to last for quite a while.”
Davis and Connor made their comments in the latest installment of In Depth With Davis, an online program that involves a closer look at school district issues. The segments are available on YouTube.com and the school district web site.
The summer program allows for “that additional extended time for students to master concepts that they may not have mastered during the traditional school year,” Connor said. “It is an opportunity for students to master those standards they need to be successful going into the next grade level, and we offer a lot of enrichment programs and camps as well, and opportunities for students to stay on track with their peers.”
The full list of SLP offerings is available on the school district’s web site and includes the Third-Grade Reading Camp, which “is specifically designed for our students who didn’t meet that state mandate to be promoted to the fourth grade,” said Meagan Parenteau, a Hillsborough schools supervisor and K-5 generalist. “These students get an extra five weeks of instruction and an entire extra opportunity to meet requirements and be promoted.”
Overall, “we’re so excited in elementary to have more than 40 sites open this summer all over the district,” Parenteau said. “Our biggest one is our K-5 Summer Learning Academy, targeted for our kids who need that extra remediation over the summer to make sure they’re prepared for the next school year.”
Elementary school offerings include also Pre-Kindergarten Readiness, Pre-K Readiness for Migrant Students, Dual-Language Success Camp, Bridge to Biliteracy-Viaje al Mundo Camp, Nature’s Classroom Water Adventure Camp, Nature’s Classroom fee-based camps and the fee-based Elementary Summer Scholars Program. Rounding out the offerings is the Hillsborough Out-of-School Time Program (HOST), a fee-based, theme-based enrichment program.
Middle school SLP offerings include Algebra Booster (for students who failed to pass the Algebra 1 EOC exam required for advancement) and Grade Enhancement (for students to enhance a failing quarter grade for language arts, math, science or social studies). For rising seventh-grade students who were held back a grade, the Student Trajectory Enhancement Program (STEP) gives them the means to get back on track and accelerate promotion to the eighth grade.
In addition to HOST programming, the SLP includes a number of summer camps for middle school students, including Nature’s Classroom camps, Cyber Patriot Camp (focused on cybersecurity), Mission: Tampa Bay (a five-day camp for girls focused on the deep ocean and hosted at the Florida Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry) and STEM Rocket Camp (focused on rocketry, aerospace concepts and hands-on science, in conjunction with the National Department of Defense Education Program).
Connor said he is particularly excited about the two-day Sixth-Grade Bridge Camp, first offered last year, which gives rising sixth-graders a sneak-peak of middle school life and expectations and procedures. It also allows them to meet staff members and peers and participate in team-building activities.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to have a smooth transition from middle school to high school, and we’re offering that to more than 4,000 students this year,” Connor said.
At the high school level, the three-day Freshman Academic Summer Transition (FAST) Camp provides a similar service, with a school orientation, schedule walk-throughs, mini-class sessions and introductions to key staff members and school organizations.
Credit Recovery Labs, with a mix of remote learning and in-person instruction, provide an opportunity for high school students to recover a half-credit (.5) as needed. Also available at the high school level are ACT Math Prep for Graduation Benchmark, Reading Graduation Benchmark Prep, French Horn Camp and the Academies of Finance and Information Technology Summer Internship (for rising seniors in the National Academy Foundation programs).
For more on the school district’s summer learning offerings, visit https://www.hillsboroughschools.org/.