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YORKVILLE – Yorkville School District 115 Board of Education members discussed the ins and outs of summer school through e-learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic – including hiring additional staff to accommodate more families – during their remote Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, May 11.
Nick Baughman, associate superintendent for learning and instruction for the district, said the district's kindergarten through seventh grade summer school program – which is partially funded by Title 1 state grants meant to provide resources and programs for lower income students – traditionally lasts for three weeks and face-to-face instruction lasts three hours every weekday. He said staff instead is looking at a model that would last five weeks – two weeks starting June 15, a week off for the Independence Day holiday and three more weeks in July – with 30 minutes of small group instruction through Zoom and 30 minutes of independent work per day.
“The team felt that having students be on Zoom meetings for three hours wasn’t necessarily developmentally appropriate,” Baughman said.
Baughman said the program focuses on extra help for English and Language Arts and math subjects from a remedial standpoint. He said staff would like to not only invite students who have been identified as needing extra help and support based on assessment data, but they also would like to open up the program for families who are requesting participation.
“They may not have met a certain criteria where we would identify that they would need remediation, but they’re concerned, due to the circumstances, of their kids falling behind,” Baughman said.
If the district were to open up more slots for families who what to opt in for summer school this time around, Baughman said, staff is requesting the school board to approve an additional 10 summer school positions to help fulfill those needs. He said he anticipates those additional costs to total $22,000 for the district.
Baughman said the district has provided financial assistance for summer school, remedial or supplementary, on a case-by-case basis in the past. He said school officials also identify families that might be eligible for that help by referring to records of students who are eligible for free and reduced lunches.
School board secretary Ashley Shields said that, as a mother of an eighth grader, she's personally interested in exploring optional summer school.
Shields said she definitely understands the loss of income position a lot of district families are in – herself included. She said she also knows parents who have told her they'd be willing to pay necessary tuition costs that may arise.
“I’d be willing to pay something if it goes toward the kids and goes toward our teachers,” Shields said.
School board member Shawn Schumacher said he personally is considering the financial circumstances of families as unemployment reaches record highs since the Great Depression. He said his immediate thought is to show empathy for all students in this case and that anybody that wants to take it online should be able to do so.
“If district can afford to absorb the cost, I think we should,” Schumacher said.
School district officials said there may be a couple of possible cost-saving measures that may be available to help the district assume summer school costs, including reduced transportation costs and staff needs. They said they would look at different ways to help move money to help fund the extra requested positions and would further clarify the roles of nurses and secretaries, for example, in e-learning before going to the school board for a vote.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, May 18.