How U-46 plans to overcome challenges of virtual summer school

  • Elgin Area School District U-46 for the first time will offer virtual summer school to students.

      Elgin Area School District U-46 for the first time will offer virtual summer school to students. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Josh Carpenter, Elgin Area School District U-46's assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, says smaller class sizes and daily live instruction will be part of virtual summer school.

    Josh Carpenter, Elgin Area School District U-46's assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, says smaller class sizes and daily live instruction will be part of virtual summer school. Courtesy of Elgin Area School District U-46

 
 
Posted6/1/2020 5:30 AM

Educators have a hard enough time keeping students engaged in learning during the summer, when kids would rather be outside playing with friends.

An added challenge this year is that summer school will have to be virtual due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That's not stopping officials at Elgin Area School District U-46, which for the first time is offering virtual summer school for more than 2,000 elementary students and an undetermined number of high school students needing credit recovery classes. Summer school starts June 8 and will run in multiple three-week sessions through the end of July.

"We haven't provided virtual summer programming in the past," said Josh Carpenter, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.

Carpenter said officials are tapping into lessons learned from implementing distance learning since March 31 after schools statewide closed due to the pandemic.

U-46 bridged the technological divide by utilizing personal Chromebooks and available portable devices to deliver instruction to nearly 38,400 students this spring. Officials surveyed families in early May about community needs and how distance learning worked out.

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"Now we know how to do it," Carpenter said. "We are able to pretty seamlessly transition to programming over the summer that is virtual."

Teachers will identify elementary students who require help or weren't engaged enough in distance learning and invite them to participate in summer school. It's up to parents to sign up.

Carpenter said the plan is to keep class sizes small -- 12 students instead of about 24 for elementary grades during the regular school year -- and more daily contact with teachers through live or recorded sessions. Classes will be focused on reading, writing and mathematics.

"Daily live interaction is critical," Carpenter said. "Summer school program needs to be engaging, authentic, and it needs to be fun to an extent. We do know that we're pulling kids away from other things."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The district will provide training for the more than 200 teachers who have signed up for summer school on how to be more engaging, he added.

High school students who received an incomplete on coursework will focus on achieving proficiency on standards this summer instead of retaking the entire course to earn credits.

U-46 also will make its suite of online curriculum resources, such as math practice games, reading materials, library books and Khan Academy, available for all students to access during the summer, Carpenter said.

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