Starting Tuesday, Los Angeles Unified School District began offering summer learning programs to all TK through 12th grade students. After more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person learning is allowed and there’s unprecedented interest for offline summer school across California, according to CalMatters.
K-12 Education Reporter Joe Hong for the non-profit news website tells KCRW a record number of students are registered for summer camps and enrichment programs. “At San Diego Unified, for instance, I think last year or pre-pandemic, they had 3,000 students enrolled. This year, they have 22,000 students enrolled.”
This record number of students means a great need for teachers. But convincing some teachers to work over the summer could be a challenge following a year of remote learning.
“It's been a mixed reaction from teachers. You honestly just couldn't pay them enough to come back for summer school after the exhausting school year,” says Hong. “Some teachers were kind of reluctant at first. But a lot of teachers changed their minds as summer approached. And some teachers are actually looking forward to being back in person with students in this sort of more recreational setting and helping them get back to in person learning.”
Hong says the focus of this year's summer sessions would be somewhat different as many students, especially younger children, are being reintroduced to interacting with their teachers and classmates outside Zoom windows. “Reestablishing the love of in-person learning, especially at the younger grade levels, elementary and middle school … it's going to be a lot of … getting students used to being around their peers and used to being with teachers.”
There are also long-term plans to help students to catch up academically. Hong says with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pledge to pour $1 billion into summer school over the next five years, there could be a boost in the number of enrichment programs for those in need.
“Summer learning loss has been a problem since even before the pandemic. In the state budget, you really see an unprecedented level of funding for special education. We know that students with disabilities have fallen behind disproportionately during the pandemic, so getting those students back where they need to be will require that extra effort and extra funding.”