School districts start to unveil summer learning plans

News 5 takes a look at Mentor and Akron schools and how their plans will affect families in the fall
Posted at 3:50 PM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 18:54:58-04

AKRON, Ohio — As the school year starts to wind down, many parents are shifting their focus to the summer and what will occupy their children’s time.

Earlier this year, Governor Mike DeWine called on all school districts to come up with a plan to help address lost learning for students.

“We need to be bold in our ideas,” Gov. DeWine said during his Feb. 9 news conference. “The future of our state depends on how we help our children today. We simply cannot fail these children. We cannot allow this pandemic to get in the way for their ability to flourish and to thrive. After what has been an extremely challenging time in Ohio, we now have the ability to do something that matters, that will make a difference and will impact both lives and the future of our state for many, many years to come.”

Funding for the new summer learning comes from $2 billion in new federal funding allocated for Ohio schools.

“While schools can use this funding for many purposes over the next two years, the priority should be helping close the academic and wellness gaps caused by the disruption of this pandemic,” Governor DeWine said on Feb. 9.

That deadline for school districts to submit a plan to the state was April 1; now we’re getting a better idea of what those plans look like.

Dr. Ellen McWiliams-Woods serves as the chief academic officer at Akron Public Schools, where their summer learning plan will focus on hands-on experience.

“We’re not looking at this as sitting in a classroom drilling traditional academics,” she said. “What we’ve built this summer is camps: adventure, mystery-type opportunities, all problem-based, and working on big projects out in the community.”

McWilliams-Woods told News 5 they’re seeing a dramatic drop in about 10% of their students when it comes to classroom performance and grades.

However, these spaced-out two-week camps throughout the summer aren't just meant for those struggling in the classroom.

“A lot of our summer program in the past was targeted toward specific students based on need, now we’ve been able to open it up for all of our students across the district to have some type of opportunity to take advantage of,” she said.

Their plan still calls for classroom learning for those struggling to re-take specific subjects as well as offering courses for those looking to plan ahead, and they plan to continue this built-out summer offering for several years.

“Our goal is to have this happen every single year and only get bigger,” McWilliams-Woods said. “We are strategically aligning these projects with the same standard they are going to need in the future as well.”

A dedicated website where Akron parents can sign up their children is expected to go live by the end of next week.

The Ohio Department of Education continues to post an updated list of each school district’s plan for extending learning. To look up your children’s district, click here.

Extending Learning
The Ohio Department of Education website offers districts' plans for extending learning.