Local districts consider summer school options to make up for learning losses

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Most of the classrooms in the Northeastern High School 200 hallway, including this English class are part of the first phase of a nearly $100 million renovation project scheduled to start in the summer of 2021. The first phase is now expected to cost $2 million more than originally expected due to the addition of ten science labs, classroom storage, and new locker rooms. 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

With the full extent of learning losses still unknown, some local districts are looking at summer school as a way to bring students up to speed. 

The York City School District usually offers summer school programs that last about three weeks, Superintendent Andrea Berry said at a Feb. 17 board meeting. But this year the program likely will last eight or nine weeks, she said, and the district still will have work to do beyond the summer.

"The idea of trying to mitigate loss is not going to be a one-and-done thing," Berry said at the meeting. "It's going to be a multi-year process."

The York City School District is not the only local district considering using the summer break as make-up time.

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Central York spokesperson Julie Romig said in an email that the school board plans to discuss summer school options at a meeting later this school year. 

Democratic Chair of the state House Education Committee Mark Longietti said it's difficult to determine how much the COVID-19 pandemic affected Pennsylvania students without the results of state assessments, most of which have not been completed yet.

However, even without the assessments, officials believe many students have fallen behind through remote learning models, he said. 

"Everyone has a reasonable expectation that something was lost," Longietti said. 

Longietti said state lawmakers are not considering any specific plans to support local summer school expansions. Instead, he said, it will be up to the districts to decide the best way to make up for learning losses. 

Officials from Gov. Tom Wolf's office and the Pennsylvania Department of Education echoed Longietti's statement about the power being in the hands of individual school districts.

Department spokesperson Kendall Alexander said in an email that department officials are also working on ways to help schools identify student needs and mitigate learning gaps, though she did not give specifics of the plans.