The North Carolina State Board of Education approved $70 million in federal funds in early June for summer programs aimed at students in kindergarten through fourth grade who need extra reading and math instruction due to school closures caused by COVID-19.
The Remediation and Summer Jump Start funding, which came from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, provides school districts, including Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, with resources to provide additional instruction.
According to a North Carolina Department of Public Instruction press release, $35 million in funding will be distributed based on the percentage of students in second and third grades during the 2019-20 school year who had not met their grade-level benchmark in reading.
The release stated districts are being asked to consider guidelines by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control when considering whether or not to have in-person curriculum.
In the release, JB Buxton, chairperson of the board’s Student Learning and Achievement Committee, said the program was meant to give students in need of the most academic support a chance to catch up before the school year starts this fall.
Chris Gammon, executive director of curriculum and instruction at Orange County Schools, said in an email that students in OCS’ virtual Summer Jump Start programs will connect with their teachers and peers through both live lessons and pre-recorded lessons that can fit their schedules. Because each student has individual needs, they will follow personalized learning paths and have direct instruction and support from their teacher.
“We are excited to pair our students with teachers whose expertise and training will support the learners during Summer Jump Start while also accommodating the needs of our families,” Dr. Gammon wrote in an email.
In the same email, Gammon said teachers will be available for individualized and small group student support following each instructional day. Each daily session will take place at different time slots depending on the availability of teachers and families.
Jessica O’Donovan, assistant superintendent of instructional services at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said Summer Jump Start is a semi-replacement of Read to Achieve, a summer reading camp put on in previous years for third grade students who had not yet met the grade-level benchmark.
“The money for Read to Achieve comes from very clear data metrics,” O’Donovan said. “It was impossible to gather the end of year data points this year because students were not in school, so the money has been reallocated for Summer Jump Start.”
O’Donovan said every district was allocated unique funding to fit its needs based on enrollment and the projected number of students below grade level, and had to develop a plan based on some state-set parameters.
“Connection with school is essential for academics but also for a social and emotional connection," O'Donovan said. "We are very committed to this work and to making sure that we maximize every minute that we have with our students.”
O’Donovan said the schools are running weekly webinars for parents, and kids have at least an hour a day of tutorials. The staff is creating schedules around students' individual needs for math or reading support, and needs for a counselor or social worker.
She said all 11 elementary schools in the CHCCS district are running Summer Jump Start programs virtually, and the principals of each school have the flexibility to work with a school-based team. CHCCS is running its virtual Summer Jump Start programs from July 6 to July 31. O’Donovan said the district is looking to serve about 500 students, so the target is around 50 students from each of the schools.
She said students were invited to participate in the Summer Jump Start programs based on middle-of-year data for reading and math, their engagement levels during remote learning and their interest in the programs since their participation is not mandatory.
“All summer programming for Jump Start is remote, not onsite yet,” O’Donovan said. “If students are not responding now to remote learning, we have to consider if that is going to be the best format for them right now.”
O’Donovan said CHCCS wants to focus on small groups so that children get more attention and support. She said the school district has hired classroom teachers, counselors and social workers to work the summer program as well as instructional technology facilitators so students have the technology they need and parents know how to engage with online learning tools.
“We chose to run it school-based this summer to have continuity and familiarity between students and teachers because remote learning is hard,” O’Donovan said.
O’Donovan said although some districts might not be able to afford hiring support staff, CHCCS leaders found it "critical" during such a stressful time.
“We know especially during this crisis that a vital part of our programs is to create conditions where students can thrive in their learning,” O’Donovan said. “We always thought about it, but this summer it is more critical.”
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