"Many people mistakenly think school is out and educators are on vacation. The truth is that many educators and students are still working as learning continues!"
While the 2020-21 school year has come to an end, student learning is continuing through the summer. This summer, there are more opportunities than ever for students of all grade levels to continue their learning and academic work beyond the end of the school year.
When schools closed in March 2020, students were out of their traditional classrooms for five months. When the 2020-21 school year started on August 31, we opened in a hybrid model of in person and virtual learning. As the school year progressed, the majority of students returned to learn in the classroom. While I am incredibly proud of all the work that was done to provide the best virtual learning possible, it is clear that online learning is not the best replacement for in-person learning. With that in mind, we knew we would have many students who would need summer enrichment and intervention programs.
As I write this letter, we currently have 690 rising pre-kindergarten through rising 12th grade students participating in our summer learning camps and activities. None of that would be possible without the 120 Dalton Public Schools staff members taking time from their summers to work with our students.
Cat Skills Camp was the first summer camp that began less than two weeks after the last day of school. From June 8 through July 22, 99 students in kindergarten through fifth grade are able to participate in six sessions focusing on math, literacy, science and fine arts activities. I am excited about the work this program will be doing to close instructional gaps and move students forward over the summer. Similar to Cat Skills Camp is our Cat Camp, a week-long targeted intervention for 2nd through 5th grade students who were identified based on their Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) scores, Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) placements and teacher recommendations.
For the first time this year, we are offering an academically focused camp for middle school students in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club. Dalton Middle School partnered with the Boys and Girls Club in Dalton to design a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) camp for students. The participating students are taught by Dalton Middle School teachers and experience plenty of hands-on learning activities. I am looking forward to continuing this partnership moving forward.
Continuing for its third summer is the Kid City program taking place at City Park. Kid City, funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant, provides an afterschool program for elementary students as well as a summer program. Kid City is focused on math, literacy and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) activities.
We are continuing two programs this year that have been extremely successful in the past. Our summer transition program will serve 30 rising pre-kindergarten students and 24 rising kindergarten students. This program helps students who may need extra support before entering pre-kindergarten or kindergarten in the fall. Our traditional high school summer program started two weeks ago for students who needed to recover credits. Currently, there are 282 high school students who are already well on their way to getting back on track for graduation.
Finally, the district is once again offering a week-long summer camp for students identified as English Language Learners (ELLs) or who qualify for migrant services. These students can range from second grade through eighth grade. We launched this program in 2019 in response to the additional support needed for some of our ELL students. This program gives these students the ability to learn and practice their English skills in an authentic learning environment and helps to give them a head start on the school year.
Much has been said about the learning loss that students experienced due to the pandemic and the closure of schools. Our district is currently reviewing all data sources to evaluate student learning loss over the past year. We were very fortunate in Dalton Public Schools because schools were opened and most students attended class in person. If students experienced learning loss due to the pandemic, our robust summer learning programs will help to improve on many of those losses.
Academic summer programs are just a few of the activities that are on-going in our district. There are also myriad enrichment and extracurricular camps in progress now in many of our schools and on our athletic fields keeping students engaged and active. Our annual Big Red READS program is well underway delivering books to our students and their families so they can keep reading all summer. Many people mistakenly think school is out and educators are on vacation. The truth is that many educators and students are still working as learning continues!