Summer school to counter COVID-19 online learning OK’d by NC House

RALEIGH, N.C. — Students struggling with school this year could find themselves learning over the summer.

A North Carolina legislative chamber has approved legislation requiring school districts to offer in-person summer school that targets children at risk of academic failure due to poor virtual learning during the pandemic.

The bipartisan measure envisions roughly six weeks of instructional time. Children wouldn’t be required to attend, but program supporters say it could help them get promoted to the next grade.

House Speaker Tim Moore is a primary sponsor of the measure that now heads to the Senate.

The Summer Learning Choice for Families, also known as House Bill 82, would require school districts to offer six weeks of learning recovery and enrichment after the school year ends.

The bill intends to “mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on at-risk students, and to require the implementation of innovative benchmark assessments.”

According to the bill, in-person instruction for students in kindergarten through third grade will focus on reading and math. Third-grade students also will focus on science instruction.

In-person instruction for students in fourth through eighth grade will focus on reading, math and science as well as at least one enrichment activity.

The bill directs local school districts to offer this and prioritize at-risk students. But Moore said any student interested would be able to participate. The program would be optional for students and teachers, but districts would be required to set up the program.

Channel 9 has learned that CMS is already working on a summer learning program.

Officials talked about it being laser-focused on academic needs, but also providing wraparound supports like school counselors, social workers and psychologists.

Roughly 14% of CMS students were failing at least one class in the first quarter of this school year. That’s more than 20,000 students -- double last year’s rate.

And CMS isn’t alone -- many school districts are seeing similar statistics. That’s why the state is considering the expanded summer program.

“For me, it’s gone pretty well -- I’ve gotten better online, but some, I think, have gotten a little bit behind,” said Hough High School student Jon Magana.

He said it’s been a mixed bag this year for students, and many parents agree.

“My daughter, she’s doing well, she’s getting great grades, but for those who are falling behind due to everything going on, I believe they do need something over the summer,” said parent Katrena Thomas. “They need some in-class learning.”

Moore told Channel 9 education reporter Elsa Gillis it would establish a 6-week, robust in-person summer school program in each school district.

“This really provides an opportunity to make sure these children are really up to speed, that they learn those fundamentals they need, and they can advance onto the next grade with the knowledge they need,” Moore said.

He also said the bill is intended to be like actual school days, with transportation and meals provided -- at no cost to families.

While the bill does target at-risk students, Moore said the program will be for any child who wants it.

“The problem is, if we don’t do something now during those summer months and move along like this last year didn’t happen, we’d really be doing these students a huge disservice,” Moore said.

He said it will be up for a vote in the House on Wednesday.

“If we can provide opportunities for them to catch up for them to get additional instruction, then that I think is positive,” said Gov, Roy Cooper, reacting to the legislation this week.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School students in Pre-K, elementary, K-8 schools, and some students with disabilities who need in-person services returned back to the classroom the week of Feb. 15 for the first time in months.

Middle and high school students in CMS returned to their hallways Monday for the first time in almost a year. Students will be on a hybrid plan, and if parents aren’t comfortable, their children can continue virtual learning.

Several other local school districts also are set to return to in-person learning.

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