Salem City Schools working on summer plans to help students catch up

Many school systems report absences and failing grades in middle and high schools

SALEM, Va. – Getting students caught up from the pandemic could take months or years.

Like many other school divisions, Salem is planning for summer.

“We expect to have a much larger credit recovery summer school for middle and high school students than ever before. Probably the largest summer school program in the school division’s history,” said Dr. Alan Seibert, Salem City Schools superintendent.

Seibert said they are a few steps ahead because years ago they started talking about using summers differently.

“The vast majority of school divisions are seeing a high percentage of students failing two or more classes compared to last year,” said Michael Bolling, during a recent Virginia Board of Education meeting.

Kindergarten students at high risk for reading failure (WSLS)
Students at high risk for reading failure (WSLS)

“We do not want to have students not graduate this year, or next year, or the year after because of the pandemic,” said Seibert.

More kindergarten and first-grade students across Virginia are at high risk for reading failure. PALS data shows numbers up 10% from last year and even higher for Black, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged and English learners, according to the Department of Education.

For kindergarten to eighth graders that don’t need the extra help, Salem is partnering with the YMCA and Parks and Rec. Students will have the option of three, 2-week camps. Seibert says some students might go all six weeks and some might just go two weeks. Transportation will be provided to make it more accessible for families.

“We wanted to bring summers to bear in a very experiential, fun, hands-On, camp-like environment and really increase the number of students served every summer,” said Seibert.

Salem has grants to cover the cost of planning and implementing all of this and will launch it this summer. The school system also has federal money they can use through Sept. 2023.

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