Free summer school provided Woodland Public Schools’ students the opportunity to strengthen fundamentals and recover credits lost during the pandemic

The district used COVID funds with some assistance from title funds in the district’s existing balance to provide summer school free-of-charge

Woodland Public Schools provided three weeks of summer school for struggling students in all grades (1-12) to work on fundamental skills and recover credits potentially lost due to challenges presented to families by remote learning due to the pandemic. 

Woodland's elementary students focused on reading comprehension skills during their summer session. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
Woodland’s elementary students focused on reading comprehension skills during their summer session. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

The district used COVID funds with some assistance from title funds in the district’s existing balance to provide summer school free-of-charge. A total of 144 students chose to take part in summer school: 61 from elementary (grades 1-4), 39 from middle school (grades 5-8), and 44 at the high school (grades K-12).

At the elementary level, students focused on developing foundational reading skills. “We invited all of our incoming first graders along with some students from the higher grades,’’ explained Denise Pearl, North Fork Elementary School’s principal, who volunteered to serve as principal of the district’s K-12 summer school program. “Developing strong reading skills is integral for our younger students, and we knew from assessing last year’s kindergartners that they could use additional support before this fall.’’

For parents and families of elementary-level students, the libraries at all three elementary schools are open from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. every weekday throughout the summer break to provide students with a place to study and to check out books.

At the middle school, students focused on both literacy and mathematics skills. “Across the board, our teachers are focusing on providing extra support for the fundamentals,’’ said Pearl. “Many of our students have fallen behind during the pandemic, but we have seen them make great progress over our summer session.’’

At Woodland Middle School, students focused on the fundamentals of mathematics and literacy. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
At Woodland Middle School, students focused on the fundamentals of mathematics and literacy. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

A special focus was taken on English Language Learners (ELL) at the middle school as language barriers within families as well as limited technology experience presented some students with more struggles than others.

As a way of engaging and encouraging students across grades K-8 during the summer session, teachers and staff tried to make summer school also feel like a summer camp. “Students who participated in their lessons competed to win prizes,’’ said Pearl. “Students received points for attendance, participation in class, and, at the middle school, students received points for turning in assignments.’’

At the high school, students used an online learning platform called APEX to recover credits they lost during the regular school year. “Students used APEX to recover credits from a wide variety of subjects,’’ said Pearl. “Additionally, since they worked at their own pace, students were able to try to recover even more credits if they had the time to do so.’’

A total of 14 staff members, both paraeducators and teachers, signed on to teach summer school, receiving training in a new program before the regular school year ended. At the elementary level, the staff utilized a new reading curriculum called Phonics Booster, which focuses on teaching students how to sound out words as they read. To further help younger students, teachers made other accommodations, too. 

“Our staff used face shields instead of face masks so students could see their faces when they spoke,’’ said Pearl. “When a young student is learning to read, a lot of that learning takes place by modeling the behavior of others; not seeing a teacher’s mouth can present a real challenge to learning how to speak and read.”

Woodland High School students used APEX software to recover credits lost during the regular school year. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
Woodland High School students used APEX software to recover credits lost during the regular school year. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

Depending on need, the district plans to continue offering summer school in the coming years, too. “We will continue to provide summer school until we close the gap created by the pandemic,’’ said Pearl. “Additionally, the elementary level will continue using this new Phonics Booster program in the fall as our summer staff has seen excellent results with it.’’

Throughout Woodland Public Schools, staff in every building will provide extra intervention to help struggling students throughout the new school year which begins Tue., Aug. 31. 

“Both the students and staff remarked how we were just getting into the rhythm of in-person learning just as we came up on the end of the school year,’’ said Pearl. “A lot of the teachers were sad the year ended because our students were just starting to ‘get it;’ we want to make sure we accelerate to that level of learning as quickly as possible when we return this fall.”

Learn more about how Woodland Public Schools educates students and serves the community, by visiting this dedicated news webpage at www.woodlandschools.org/news/wsd

Information provided by Woodland School District.

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