PCSD sees overwhelming response to free summer school

Jeff Dempsey
The Park Record
A program that typically serves about 175 students this summer saw 565 sign up.
Courtesy of Park City School District

The Park City School District may be winding down for the school year, but this summer, students in kindergarten through eighth grade will have the opportunity to participate in the district’s summer school program free of charge.

The program will run June 15-July 23. The daily schedule will include academic instruction from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by a half-hour lunch and then online enrichment activities from 12:30 to 2:30. Among those online activities will be STEM programs, dance, cooking, fitness and music, to name a few.

With the coronavirus shutdown impacting the last few months of the past school year, the desire for additional help is clear. Amy Hunt, the district’s chief academic officer, said the district has been offering summer school for the past five years, with typical enrollment around 175 students. This summer, 565 students signed up, forcing the district to close enrollment much earlier than anticipated.

Angie Dufner, coordinator for summer school programs for students in fifth through eighth grades, said it was important to the district to make summer school as accessible as possible, from waiving the fee to getting creative with the virtual programs on offer.

“In the past we charged between $100 and $125 per child, which included all academics, field trips, activities, breakfast, lunch and snacks for six weeks,” she said. “This year we are waiving all fees due to the hardships that many of our families are facing. We do not want students to miss an educational opportunity because their families may not be able to afford it.

“Additionally, all materials that students need to participate in these activities will be provided by the district.”

Dufner said the district typically begins planning for summer school in February, but since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they’ve gone through several iterations of their planned programming.

“At first we thought we might be able to at least have a blended program where we could have both virtual and small face-to-face groups, but when the governor announced that schools were to remain closed even when our (pandemic response levels) changed, we decided it was best to start planning for an all-virtual summer school,” she said.

Summer program seen as particularly valuable

Hunt, who oversees all aspects of curriculum, instruction and assessment. Even without the current pandemic’s affect on instruction, she said, summer school is a valuable tool.

“It provides a structured opportunity for students to continue learning when school is not in session,” she said. “A summer school program can be thoughtfully designed to create individualized learning experiences for students with diverse needs, from intervention to enrichment.”

As students head into the 2020-2021 school year, Hunt said, summer school is even more important. Students who need extra support should be able to get it without parents worrying how they will cover the cost.

“(It will) provide opportunities for students who need additional support to be prepared for learning next school year,” she said. “As community guidelines move toward a less restrictive environment, online learning will transition to face-to-face instruction with teachers in appropriately sized groups.”

Students participating in summer school will complete a pre-assessment to identify their individual learning needs, Hunt said.

“Our teachers will work with students using lessons that are accessible for students at their current learning level and help them grow in their proficiency,” she said. “We will also be offering French and Spanish classes for our students enrolled in our dual-language immersion programs … to keep up their language skills during the summer.”

Hunt said the district scrambled to meet student needs after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down campuses. And while summer school will help students who need extra help heading into next school year, what exactly school will look like is still up in the air.

“We have task force teams planning for any scenario,” Hunt said. “Fortunately, the current statistics in Summit County are leaning toward a ‘return to normal’ start of the 2020-2021 school year. We look forward to welcoming back staff, students and families to our schools.”

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