It’s common knowledge that children haven’t been able to learn as well during the COVID-19 pandemic, with remote learning and external factors causing anxiety or distress. To make up for the loss, President Joe Biden and at least two governors support the idea of extending school into the summer.
It seems like a great idea: more teachers across the country will be vaccinated, the transfer rate of the disease may be lower, and it will be easier to be outdoors during the warmer weather.
Schools have been shut down around the world for about 11 months, and most students are still learning remotely or doing some form of a hybrid program. The White House has initiated a plan that includes $130 billion to aid K-12 schools and reinvent the education system.
However, as we’ve seen during this crisis, even the simplest initiatives can be challenging to carry out in the public school system. Teachers are exhausted after spending longer hours than usual adapting their lesson plans to be virtual or building virtual classrooms. Students have been learning remotely for so long they may need that break from learning and schoolwork. And most of all, there is no concrete plan of what summer school will look like.
Though summer school seems to make sense to help many children catch up, the bigger question is: is it a good idea?
It is a big commitment to make, not only for parents and children but for educators. Summer school means teachers won’t get a much-needed break after working so hard during the school year. Though in-person classroom learning is undoubtedly more beneficial for children, it may be less effective with teachers working all year round during this difficult time.
There is the question of equity as well. Not all children may be able to participate if parents don’t feel that it is safe to return to school. Other students may have extracurricular activities or camps during the summer, causing them to miss additional classroom learning. Some students that really need help may not receive the support they need if safety is a higher priority than classroom learning, requiring a different approach to reach them.
However, there are many reasons why summer school may be highly beneficial. Students will be able to catch up academically if they have fallen behind, and they will receive a much better education learning in a classroom with a physical teacher present rather than behind a computer screen.
The social aspect is a crucial factor to consider as well. Many children, especially young ones, may not have been able to socialize with their peers in a long time. Solving conflicts, making friends, and caring for others are important lessons that children need to put into practice to develop these skills continuously into adulthood. Summer school can be an excellent way to rebuild your child’s social skills and teach them how to interact with others using verbal and nonverbal communication.
Preparing students for the next grade level during summer school can also be supplemented with tutoring, which has shown to positively impact students when done by trained tutors in small groups. Trained teaching assistants can run these types of tutoring programs without needing a teaching certification, taking some of the pressure off of teachers.
Overall, the ultimate decision lies with the parent whether they want to send their child to summer school. There are several reasons why it can be such a beneficial opportunity for students to catch up on their learning. Those who need extra help academically and can’t afford to hire a private tutor can help create equitable opportunities for lower-income families. It can also give children an opportunity to develop essential social skills that will benefit them into adulthood.
However, it can be detrimental for educators who feel burnt out or administrators who don’t know what kind of plan will work best in their district. While some students may receive the extra help and support they need, others may miss out due to scheduling conflicts or familial concerns about safety.
Ultimately, there is no clear answer if summer school is a good idea. However, this idea shows that we need to somehow address the critical skills and education that children may have lost during this pandemic to make sure no one is left behind.
Emily currently lives in Orange County, California after spending four years in Illinois and half a year teaching in Florence, Italy. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Knox College and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego and has taught English to native speakers and ESL students for over three years. When she’s not working as a School Counselor or writing, she enjoys traveling the world, playing instruments, and blogging about Millennial experiences at Long Live the Twenties.