Pinellas County encourages summer learning for students who fell behind during pandemic

Summer school might be more appealing than years past for teachers, students, and parents this year after a school year disjointed and disrupted by the pandemic.

Teachers believe some students fell behind, so Pinellas County school administrators hope to help those kids catch up through their summer learning program.

Since March 2020, school meant different things for different kids; virtual classrooms, face-to-face learning, or both. Educators say the past year has been challenging for both the students and the teachers. The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association president Nancy Velardi said it’s likely the pandemic caused some students to lose what they learned.

"The human interaction is the key element to a very good education and when you have a quality teacher in the classroom, that is when you’re going to get the best results," said Velardi.

Pinellas County Schools plans to help make up lost ground during the Summer Bridge program, which is a summer school for kids in kindergarten up to 12th grade from June 21 to July 15.

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Most Hillsborough County teachers are more than ready to leave this year of distanced learning in the past and welcome all their students back to the classroom. 

"In general across our district, across the state of Florida, mathematics has been the place where students are struggling a little bit more, particularly in elementary school," said Kevin Hendrick, the associate superintendent of teaching & learning services in Pinellas County Schools.

Lost learning from COVID-19 is a concern nationwide. Consulting firm McKinsey and Company analyzed data showing the achievement gap grew last year especially for students of color. Hendrick said their plan to reach any student falling behind.

"We’ll send letters home, we’ll do call-outs home. We’ll do specific calls to parents. We’ll help with the registration process. It’s one of the reasons we’re offering transportation for the first time," said Hendrick.

Teachers said they measure progress every year, and this summer program is another snapshot.

"I think we will know by the numbers of enrolled and registered students where the parents feel their kids are at," said Velardi.

Pinellas County Schools said they expect higher enrollment in their summer program this year, with at least 25 percent of the district’s students. The program runs four weeks long for about five hours a day, and parents can register their kids now.