JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Two non-profits are teaming up to fight summer learning loss across Tennessee. This is an issue even more pressing due to the COVID-19 pandemic barring kids from traditional classrooms since March.
The Bill and Crissy Haslam Foundation, in partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs in Tennessee and other youth-serving organizations across the state, launched the Tennessee Tutoring Corps to provide summer learning opportunities for students in grades K-6 whose education has been interrupted due to the pandemic.
Jayme Simmons, Executive Director of the Bill and Crissy Haslam Foundation, told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that the Corps aims to: “provide small group tutoring through our Boys and Girls Clubs across the state of Tennessee in Math and English Language Arts. The tutors are going to be assigned to the different club sites and work alongside the young students who we know already during the summer tend to lose learning academically, but it’s exacerbated by the fact that a lot of these kids have been out of school since March.”
The tutoring commitment would be between 7 and 8 weeks, starting June 15 – from June to August, in 18 Boys & Girls Clubs across the state – 8 of which are located in the Tri-Cities Region.
“It’s been an ambitious program, we started talking about it probably about 4 weeks ago, seeing a real need to serve our students who’ve been out of school, again, since March. The governor and Crissy are very passionate about education, especially education for our students who tend to fall furthest behind during the summer. Seeing that learning loss, knowing that’s a real problem, and then knowing a lot of these kids have an additional eight weeks of school that they missed at the end of this school year, they felt very passionate about, let’s go ahead and leverage the fact that we have a lot of really great college students this summer who – yes, want to earn $1,000, but more importantly, want to be part of a larger effort, part of a corps, give back to their communities, serve students this summer in light of what we are going through, and hopefully, in placing these tutors across the state, and alongside kids this summer, based on what we know from the research, that can fundamentally put those students on a different trajectory when they come back to school in the fall, assuming they’re going back to school in the fall. We want to address the learning gaps that really are apparent after all the time that most of these kids have been out of school,” Simmons explained.
One such site effected by the tutoring program is the Johnson City/Washington County Boys & Girls Club, where News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais spoke with President and CEO Robin Crumley.
“We were fortunate enough to reopen last week, but to a very small amount of kids. So, where our summer program was 200+ we’re only accepting 40-something kids right now,” Crumley said. “So, we’re going to be coordinating the tutors to know the direction they need to go to help them be successful and also to help our kids be successful.”
The club typically caters to children of all ages over the summer break from school, but coronavirus has changed even that.
“What we’re concentrating on right now in our criteria is those kids who can’t be home by themselves, 5th and below,” she explained. “The environment this summer is more classroom-like, but we’re good at making things fun, so we’re going to change that up.”
Crumley said the non-profit is tackling even more than tutoring this summer.
“A lot of the changes that we made, first of all, was redesigning the rooms that we’re going to use, so making sure that if you’re the first person that comes that day, you’re assigned to seat in table 1, if you’re the second person, you’re in a seat in table two. So, just doing the social distancing without having them think of what they need to do, wearing the mask. Before they ever come in the building, we take their temperature, we ask the CDC guideline questions,” she said.
The Boys & Girls Club staff will be part of the hands-on tutoring process as well.
“The tutoring process will consist of a pre- and post-test, so we’re going to see how that concentrated effort is going to make a difference in those kids’ lives throughout the summer,” Crumley said.
She said they Boys & Girls Club staff administer those tests.
“It is fascinating to know that even in a pandemic, partnerships can be made, and what an awesome opportunity for addressing an issue which has always been there – summer learning loss – and partnering people who want to tutor and can tutor, with staff that know how to direct that, with kids that need to use that,” Crumley added.
The Boys & Girls Club of Johnson City/Washington County is taking some extra precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic:
Those volunteers who complete the full amount of tutoring will earn $1,000.
Interested candidates can submit applications on the Tennessee Tutoring Corps website before noon on Friday, May 29.