Summer school can be a tough sell for students. After all, most kids would rather be outside enjoying the sun than in school. But after more than a year of remote and hybrid learning, many students were ready to get back into the classroom, even if that meant sacrificing some of their vacation time.
Because of COVID, the demand for summer learning was so great this year that the district introduced two new summer school programs to complement the high school credit retrieval classes typically offered at the Pierce County Skills Center.
This year we unveiled the Bethel Boost and Spark Summer Learning programs.
Tailored to our secondary students, Spark Summer Learning is an invitation-only program focused on STEM, English Language Arts and mathematics. The aim of the program is to help students who were in danger of falling behind get caught up and ready for the coming school year.
The Bethel Boost program, which is serving roughly 600 elementary-age students this summer, was also designed to benefit students who were in danger of falling behind thanks to COVID. The program is focused on math, English Language Arts, and social and emotional learning.
Because transitional periods can be especially difficult, the Spark Program offers separate sessions tailored to incoming 6th graders who are preparing for middle school and incoming 9th graders who will be transitioning to high school.
“From our youngest learners to next year’s seniors, our Bethel Boost, Spark and credit retrieval programs will be a tremendous asset to our students and their families,” said Bethel Superintendent Tom Seigel.
Bethel Boost teacher Brandee Concepcion works with students who will be entering kindergarten next year.
“With the pandemic hitting, a lot of students had a loss of instruction time, and that achievement gap can be quite big,” said Concepcion. “Having students come during the summer has been really helpful in closing that gap.”
Teacher Shyanne Mayberry said she and her third-grade students are doing a lot of hands-on work in order to stay focused in the classroom.
“It’s a really great program,” she said. “The children are given the opportunity to deepen their critical thinking skills. They are getting the opportunity to advocate for themselves — asking for help when they need it.”
The summer school programs aren’t just about pure academics, either. Some of the students attending these sessions haven’t been in a classroom since before the pandemic, and those students will benefit from having a buffer between virtual instruction and the in-person learning they will be returning to this fall.
“It definitely boosts their confidence,” said Melissa Kaasa, a site lead at Spanaway Elementary School. “We’ve had some students who have been completely remote, so it’s nice to be able to have that transition from being completely virtual to being in person, especially with the smaller class sizes.”
Summer school also gives students a chance to “level up” and be ready to start the school year strong this fall.
“I love working in the summer with the children. We call this a leveling up program, rather than just summer school. I’m constantly asking them, are you ready to level up? And they’re pretty enthused,” Mayberry said.