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Decisions pending on summer school options, as demand could be high

Summit 54's Summer Advantage ramped up and ready to answer call

Students in a past Summer Advantage class at Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale listen to a story.
Post Independent file

The potential for an even greater “summer slide” as K-12 schools have had to shift from in-class to online learning this spring could place a greater demand on summer school options.

At this point, though, the prospect of students occupying Roaring Fork District school buildings come late June or July is — as with just about everything — up in the air.

Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt schools officials have suggested that summer programming may be necessary for students who might not be ready to advance to the next grade in the fall.

Gov. Jared Polis this week extended school closures related to the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado to the end of the school year. During that time, district schools, charters and private institutions are concluding the school year through various online instruction programs.

The governor’s order did leave the question of summer programming open, but in a call with school district superintendents on Tuesday he also said social distancing may need to continue into the fall, Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein said.

“We are still unsure if we will be able to offer summer programming,” Stein said, adding the district has established May 15 as the deadline for making decisions about summer programs.

“That’s the latest date that we will be able to green-light summer programs and be ready with staffing, facilities, transportation, food services, and other preparations that need to be made in advance,” he said.

Elementary schools are working closely with Summit 54’s Summer Advantage program to identify kindergarten through fourth-grade students who could benefit from supplemental learning.

The decision to proceed, depending on public health orders, will be a joint determination between the district and Summit 54, Stein said.

The free Summer Advantage program is geared up and ready to roll with its five-week academic, enrichment, physical fitness and student nutrition program, Summit 54 Executive Director Terri Caine said.

“We’re really worried about our little kids, especially those from low-income families who have a limited ability to move their kids forward,” Caine said. “Right now, we’re fully ready to go.”

Summer Advantage served 585 K-4 students at three district sites last summer, at Glenwood Springs, Crystal River and Basalt elementary schools. The program has served as many as 750 students in the past, Caine said.

Given the likely greater need this summer for childcare options as parents return to work, and the expected need for academic support, the program is needed now more than ever, she said.

“What is critical to understand is that, in kindergarten through third grade, children learn to read,” Caine said. “Starting in fourth grade, half of the material they are expected to learn is provided in a written format. If children aren’t at grade level when they enter fourth grade, it is very difficult for them to keep up with their peers.”

There is a high correlation between low third-grade literacy rates and eventual high school drop-out rates, she noted.

Summer Advantage is currently scheduled to operate from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday–Friday, June 22–July 24 at GSES, CRES and BES. It is open to any student from kindergarten through fourth grade residing with the school district, whether they attend a district school or not.

The school district partners by offering free bus transportation to and from each program site. Breakfast and lunch meals are also provided. In addition to the regular academic offerings and physical activities, the program includes Friday field trips to regional recreational, cultural and historical sites. 

Caine said the majority of Summer Advantage educators were hired in January and February. Online applications for scholars were made available in February, and parents are encouraged to apply for the free program online [https://www.summeradvantage.org/parents].

“We are developing additional safety measures to keep the scholars, teachers and other staff members safe,” Caine added in a press release.  Those measures are to include additional sanitization of buses and schools; use of face masks and gloves for all scholars and staff; hand sanitizers, temperature checks before getting on the buses and/or entering the schools for everyone; and reduction in class sizes for social distancing.

Donations can be made to the Summer Advantage program at online at https://summit54.org/donate/

In addition to Summer Advantage, the school district has an Extended School Year (ESY) program for special education students, and various schools have small summer programs for students who may need to catch up before the start of the new school year.

“There are also many community partners who use our facilities over the summer,” Stein said. “All of these programs are different, so we wouldn’t necessarily need to make a blanket decision about closing all summer use, but we will be prioritizing public health and safety in determining whether any program can operate in our facilities this summer.” 

jstroud@postindependent.com


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