The struggle to rebuild school communities after two years of uncertainty in the age of the pandemic.
Michigan students looking to have fun and catch up on missed learning this summer have a lot more choices than usual.
Districts have once again beefed up their summer programming, from credit recovery to robotics and sports-focused camps.
Fueled by federal COVID assistance, expanded summer school options come at just the right time for students struggling with the academic impact of the pandemic. Many parents and students are looking for extra study time and opportunities to catch up on credit.
School districts planned to spend $179 million in COVID relief for summer programming over several years, according to budget proposals filed with the state in December. This is in addition to the small summer programs that most Michigan districts offered before the pandemic.
What can parents in their district expect this year?
In many cases, districts plan to keep the expanded summer programs they started offering last year, when most of the COVID relief dollars became available.
Many districts are still accepting registrations, and some will allow students to register after programming begins. Attendance is generally not mandatory and most programs, with the exception of some enrichment camps, are free.
Here are examples of how some school districts in Michigan are using their federal COVID funds for summer programming:
The Detroit Public Schools Community District will again offer its robust summer learning experiences program this year.
The summer school in Detroit will run from July 11 to August 4. It includes academic enrichment courses, STEM courses and recreational activities for students. The program will be conducted in person for most students, while students currently attending the DPSCD Virtual School will be permitted to take their classes online.
Some districts are using their share of COVID relief funds to move away from school-like summer programs and provide extra learning time for as many students as possible.
Ypsilanti Public Schools renamed its summer offerings Grizzly Learning Camp, rather than the summer school. The camp offers robotics and sports classes, as well as credit recovery classes for students who need them. The district planned to spend $1.5 million in federal funds for the camp, which will continue through August.
Grand Rapids Public Schools has more than 3,100 students enrolled in summer programs, or approximately 20% of its total enrollment. That’s about the same number as last summer, but 2-1/2 times more than pre-pandemic summers. The district is spending about $2.5 million on summer schools, thanks to an influx of federal COVID relief money, up from just under $1 million before the pandemic.
Fun is part of the program. Students could, for example, play educational games on PlayStations, record podcasts about community heroes or practice photojournalism, said Mel Atkins, district director of community and student affairs.
“We try to disguise the learning, so it doesn’t feel like the school year,” Atkins said. “We don’t advocate row offices. We are looking for hands-on activities in the community.
The district also offers online learning programs for children in kindergarten through 8th grade.
Other districts focus on students who need academic help the most.
Kalamazoo Public Schools‘Summer course enrollment has increased from 2,500 last summer to 800 this year. It was by design, said Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri, who wanted to focus on children identified by teachers as the most struggling.
“Last summer everyone needed extra support as everyone was going back to physical schools after being virtual for 18 months,” Raichoudhuri said. “The need was greater and we needed the summer months to ease the transition. We were really happy to have made this decision.
Many smaller school communities also offer more summer programs. Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Anishnabe Academy, an Upper Peninsula charter school that emphasizes Anishinaabe culture and tradition, enrolls more than a third of its 630 students in an expanded summer school. The program will include field trips and two free meals a day. Activities will focus on environmental science and indigenous games and crafts, among other topics. All students can participate.
Koby Levin is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit, covering K-12 schools and early childhood education. Contact Koby at [email protected]
Tracie Mauriello covers state education policy for Chalkbeat Detroit and Bridge Michigan. Join her at [email protected].
Ethan Bakuli is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit covering the Detroit Public Schools Community District. Contact Ethan at [email protected].