‘This is by far the largest summer program we have ever had’: Local school systems gearing up for summer class

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TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) – Schools are normally closing up for this summer this time of year, but after a challenging year of learning remotely and a pandemic, school systems are gearing up to host the largest summer programs yet.

“We are collaborating with ETSU and they are bringing some students and teachers on-site to do a [Science Technology Engineering, Arts and Math] camp for us for three days during the second week. So, our students will have robots and legos and do some computing and programming,” said Tracey Easterling, the summer school coordinator for Bristol, Tennessee City Schools. “We are also working on building content knowledge for our language arts program so that students are studying and extending their content knowledge.”

BTCS is expecting 483 elementary school students and more than 160 middle school students to participate.

“This is a tremendous increase in the number of students who are going to extend their school year and their learning and hopefully close some gaps and get prepared for next year,” Easterling said. “A lot of students didn’t have geometry or measurement units last year so as part of our STREAM camp, we have some really engaging activities.”

Along with a heavy focus on science, math, technology, engineering, arts and math, the programs will focus on phonics and reading.

“This is by far the largest summer program we have ever had,” said Robbie Anderson, the director of accountability and school improvement for Johnson City Schools. “A large part of the day will be spent on focusing on reading, language arts, and math…the state is providing us with a pre-test and at the end of the summer program there will be a post-test. So, we’ll be able to track the data of the students and to look at the amount of academic achievement that was gained over the course of the summer program.”

Johnson City Schools is anticipating around 900 elementary students, 200 middle school, and 300 high school students to take part in their programs.

The State of Tennessee has allocated millions of dollars for school systems to provide the camps. Meals and transportation, as well as extended hours, are also offered.

“Teachers are getting paid $50 an hour for their summer work. That’s a nice incentive because they have had one of the most challenging school years they’ve ever had before and our educational assistants are having a $5 an hour increase in pay,” said Easterling.

The summer programs aren’t required and anyone can attend but some students were identified by teachers and administration as those who would benefit the most.

“They really needed it this summer especially. These kids, some of them don’t have the opportunity to go to summer programs that so cost a lot and I was one of those. I was not able to put her in one before,” said Keshia Kennedy, a Fairmount Elementary School mom.

Her daughter Lavena is a rising fifth grader.

“She did get a little behind because of Covid, having to do some work from home she…I think a lot of students had some issues with that and I’m just looking forward to her getting more from it than she did from the actual school year,” said Kennedy. “I want her to feel like a fifth-grader, get ready for her to realize that she is going to be going into middle school and being able to know that she feels confident enough to go into 5th grade.”

Lavena struggles with ADHD and had a hard time with remote learning.

“It was kind of hard because they were like only doing homework and I kept forgetting about it,” Lavena said. “When you get into a new grade, it’s kind of hard for you and stuff and when you have a mask on it’s really hard to understand each other.”

Programs in Johnson City and Bristol last primarily through the month of June.

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