Local school districts are expanding summer programs to offer what the state is calling “high-dosage” tutoring and emotional support.

Children in the Oxford Hills school district participate in a past summer school program. Submitted photo

Many students over the past year have been exposed to trauma, disruptions in schooling, isolation and disengagement from peers, according to the Maine Department of Education’s 2021 Summer Learning and Enrichment Guide.

The guide recommends expanding summer programs beyond traditional remediation and credit recovery to prioritize small-group, intensive interventions and social-emotional connections. Federal COVID relief funds are being used by most districts to pay for these expanded programs.

“School systems across the country have faced extraordinary challenges over the past year, educating students at a distance and in classrooms through the many disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the guide.

It notes that in school districts across the country, “particularly in high poverty and underserved communities,” partially or fully remote instruction has lasted most of the school year.

That is the case in Lewiston public schools, which has expanded its summer offerings to include more students, Assistant Superintendent Karen Paquette said Friday.

Programs will be different “at every level and every school, depending on staffing, funding and need,” she said.

Reading and math remediation will be the focus at primary and elementary schools, with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes offered as enrichment, she said.

She said programs for younger pupils are structured to bring them into school buildings four to five days a week.

Social-emotional learning — not new to Lewiston summer programs, Paquette said — will take the form of a topic or focus “rooted in SEL as time to process and work through being in school four or five days in a row.”

Such sessions typically involve sharing feelings and getting to know one another.

The Lewiston High School program will focus on credit recovery in targeted subjects, so students won’t have to repeat an entire year. These sessions will be offered remotely, Paquette said.

Children in the Oxford Hills school district participate in a past summer school program. Submitted photo

Participation in summer schooling is voluntary, but students who have struggled over the past year will be invited to attend. Parents also can request that a child participates.

Summer sessions begin June 28 and run through the month of July. Free meals will be offered throughout the summer, Paquette said.

In SAD 17, the sprawling Oxford Hills district, summer programming has been expanded to include all grade levels and all schools. Last year, the district offered only remote instruction to about 25 students, literacy coach Melanie Ellsworth said.

Participation in all programs is based on academic need and is by referral from teachers and principals. Classes will run July 12 to Aug. 5 Monday through Thursday mornings, with breakfast served on site.

The kindergarten Jumpstart program will be offered to pupils with lower-than-average language skills, Ellsworth said.

The program has been expanded from serving 30 pupils in 2019 to 45 this year.

Camp Achieve and Oxford Hills Middle School Viking Voyage programs are for students who need extra support in math or literacy, she said.

Camp Achieve, expanded from a 75-student capacity in 2019 to 214 students, will focus on life science (plants, animals and the interdependence of living things), math problem-solving and nonfiction reading and writing, she said.

The Voyage program was still being developed, but previous voyages have included garage band, gardening, computer programming, robotics, dance and drama.

The goal of the program is to help students gain skills in leadership, problem solving and goal setting. There will be room for 40 to 48 students this year. The program was not offered in 2019.

Children in the Oxford Hills school district participate in a past summer school program. Submitted photo

Credit recovery is the goal at the high school level.

“Out first goal, however, is to engage students in learning and to build their motivation,” Ellsworth said.

CAMELS AND TIGERS AND BEARS — AND GOATS

The Lisbon School Department is offering the district’s first-ever summer school for elementary level students.

It has collaborated in the past with RSU 4 (Litchfield, Sabattus, Wales) to offer middle and high school summer programs, but those will be offered in-house this year.

“Programs will focus on social-emotional learning and resiliency — coming and staying in school — and team building,” said Julie Colello-Nichols, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the Lisbon School Department.

Reconnecting pupils to one another is important because students “spent so much in quarantine that kids have been apart from their classmates,” she said.

She said reading and math remediation will be offered to students who did not meet the standards of the Northeast Educational Assessment, which Lisbon uses as a “universal screening” for grades 2 through 11.

The four-week summer program beginning July 6 will include a two-hour science block with field trips to a farm and a zoo, among other places.

“We want kids to learn in an environment out in the community,” Colello-Nichols said.

She said these lessons will be “infused with reading and math,” and will be based on teacher interest.

For example, one group of kids will learn about farm to table — “where does our food come from?” — by visiting Pineland Farms. The trip will include a hiking excursion with goats, she said.

Another group will visit DEW Haven Rescue and Zoo in Mount Vernon to learn about more exotic animals such as camels and tigers and bears, Colello-Nichols said.

These lessons will help “level the playing field” for disadvantaged pupils who may not have had such experiences, she said.

Lisbon High School will offer credit recovery for students “who because of COVID were not able to be successful, so they don’t have to do a fifth year and can catch up for graduation,” she said.

Schools in RSU 10, based in Rumford and Buckfield, have also ramped up their summer offerings with enrichment programs, including themed weeks at the elementary level, “all around camping or STEM,” Assistant Superintendent Leanne Condon said.

Eleven enrichment courses, including gardening, fitness, book club, theater and ceramics, are being offered at Buckfield Junior/Senior High School, she said.

Mountain Valley High School in Rumford is offering chess and technology, in addition to credit recovery in math, English, science and social studies.

All schools will offer academics, Condon said. Elementary and middle school students will get tutoring in reading, writing and math.

The district’s programs include “a lot of social time,” she said. “We’re also focusing on social-emotional learning, get-to-know-you activities, checking in with kids, making sure the whole kid is taken care of.”

Participation at the elementary level is by invitation, Condon said. “For middle school and high school, we’re putting it out there and hoping students will sign up.”

Credit recovery will begin in Buckfield right after the end of the school year, which is June 14, and will continue through August, she said.

The bulk of the classes will take place July 6-29, Tuesday through Thursday. Busing, breakfast and lunch will be provided.

The summer programs are only possible because of COVID relief funds, Condon said. Staffing was initially untenable.

“We were finding people were exhausted and had no energy to do summer programs,” she said, “but we were able to increase the hourly pay for teachers.”

‘A STRANGE YEAR’

In Auburn, staffing concerns led to a different approach.

“Everyone is exhausted,” Curriculum Director Shelly Mogul said. “We were worried about the ability to staff our normal elementary summer program.”

That program traditionally was four days a week for four weeks and involved 75 to 90 students, she said.

This year, only tutoring from teachers and education technicians will be offered at all grade levels.

“We’re calling it targeted intervention,” Mogul said. “We’ll go after certain subjects, very tailored to the needs of individual students.”

The Auburn School Department has a day care program at Sherwood Heights Elementary School. Parents have been invited to bring children there for tutoring, Mogul said.

She said the district also has partnerships with the Auburn Recreation Department and the Boys and Girls Club. Tutoring will also be available at those sites.

At the high school level, students can take remediation classes in math and science. “It will be very fluid,” Mogul said. “They can come for the amount of time it takes to remediate.”

The Edward Little High School program usually begins after the Fourth of July, she said.

Though the programs will not be expanded or lengthened, Mogul said she sees it as “more robust because we are specifically targeting what kids need, trying to be very efficient with our time and people by serving more students through tutoring.”

The district is trying to meet kids where they are, she said.

For example, educators at Park Avenue Elementary will go to Valerie Circle, a neighborhood with a high concentration of English language learners, with a bookmobile.

“They’ll be throwing blankets on the ground, doing math games,” possibly as soon as the week of June 21, Mogul said.

The pandemic year has been chaotic for both teachers and students, she said.

“I chalk everything up to it being a strange year,” she said. “Not every student needs the same thing. We hope to make good tutor matches with our students.”

RSU 16 (Poland, Minot and Mechanic Falls) is using COVID relief funds to offer a “brand-new” program called Summer Summit for kindergartners through second-graders, Assistant Superintendent Amy Hediger said.

“Students will be broken into pods of six students with three teachers to allow for smaller cohorts and to develop team unity,” she said. “Each pod will be named after a mountain in Maine.”

The program will focus on building relationships and a sense of belonging and connection, and to provide targeted instruction, she said.

Programs will be offered at all grade levels, she said. Classes will run four days a week for four weeks beginning July 6.

Sixth-graders will attend programs at the middle school, Hediger said. “This is a chance to form relationships and connections with their new teachers and new building.”

All programs are fully staffed, she said.

“Our staff really stepped up to provide our usual summer programming and to step into a new program at the elementary level after a tough, exhausting year,” she said.


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