Hamilton County Schools to expand summer learning program

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / A thermometer is seen on a table in the Hamilton County Schools board room on Tuesday, May 12, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The district developed the summer learning plan last year due to school closures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Hamilton County Schools is expanding its pandemic-era summer school program to more sites and students this summer.

The program will run from June 7-25 and July 7-27, with 41 schools serving as sites. The length of the program has doubled to six weeks this year compared to three weeks last year, said the district's director of special projects, Kelley Weiss, but parents don't have to commit to both sessions.

The program was developed last summer to provide support to students after leaving classrooms due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"It was twofold - how do we support students who have been out of school for the last nine weeks or so because we missed our fourth quarter, and we wanted to be able to find ways to bring them back, but it also worked as a way of us saying, 'Hey, how can we find new ways to support students in their learning while dealing with all of the ways that COVID impacted schools,'" Weiss said.

The program is open to all students in elementary, middle and high school, but schools and teachers will also reach out to families of students who might benefit from summer learning. Joey Bird has two children in elementary school who attended last year and plan to attend again this year. Her youngest son struggles with reading, and last year, his teacher reached out to her about enrolling him in the program.

"So he did math and reading each day, but his primary focus was on reading, so that way he was given time to look at that stuff that he missed when school let out," Bird said. "They also worked with him on skills for the upcoming school year, which was amazing because it helped him to gain confidence prior to the school year starting."

For elementary students, the program will follow a typical school day with extended time for math and reading, but will also include games, time to socialize, an innovation hour for science and math projects and dedicated time for physical education every day.

Students will also meet in small groups with a teacher to meet specific learning goals, Weiss said.

"It is going to be providing each student with what they need and meeting them where they're at," Weiss said. "So if a student does have a higher math ability or is shown that they can move beyond, we're going to meet them there and allow them some enrichment. All intervention is to boost students up from where they're currently at."

Class sizes will depend on enrollment, Weiss said, and the program will follow the school district's COVID-19 guidelines.

K-5 students will meet Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. while middle and high school students will meet Monday-Thursday from 8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Contact Anika Chaturvedi at achaturvedi@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.