With pandemic pressures and volatile school scheduling causing more students to fall behind on their classwork than in a normal year, Moscow and Pullman school districts are making plans to use summer programming to help students catch up or keep pace.

Moscow Superintendent Greg Bailey said the district is working to offer students and families a “menu of methods, so it fits the family.”

With the help of donations and grants, Bailey said parent Jennifer Halvorson and Moscow High School Principal Erik Perryman have created a summer program for high school students called “On Track,” to help address so-called “learning loss” that may have taken place because of the pandemic.

Halvorson said students in the program would retake classes they failed or withdrew from this year online through the Idaho Digital Learning Academy. However, for four hours a day, four days a week, these students would also spend time working through class materials in school facilities with a teacher on hand to help or answer questions.

She said the program would help students stay on track with mandatory core classes without having to retake them during the regular school year.

“What we’re concerned about and we’re trying to avoid is a glut of classes that have to be retaken next fall,” Halvorson said. “The concern is that if we kick the can down the road, and we don’t address this this summer, we will not be able to schedule all these classes.”

Halvorson said this program would also include a child care component to help free up time and energy of older students who may have had to look after younger siblings while everyone was learning from home. She said when parents are working and children are at home alone together, the oldest sibling is often tasked with keeping track of their younger brothers or sisters.

“That has been an impediment to these kids being able to get through their schoolwork successfully,” she said. “We’re wanting to provide child care in kind of the extreme circumstances where that kid won’t be able to attend summer school — likely geared toward the lower-income (families).”

Overall, Halvorson estimates the program will cost around $33,000 and she’s already secured some funds, including a donation from Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, to support the program.

Bailey said efforts to address learning loss among middle school students in the district will be similar to the high school program. At the elementary level, he said struggling students will be strongly encouraged to come into school facilities Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays over the summer for about four hours a day for in-person support.

In Pullman, Assistant Superintendent Roberta Kramer said the district will continue its regular credit retrieval program it offers every summer and hire a “completion coach” in continuation of a program that began last summer. Kramer said these efforts will be largely supported through COVID-19 relief funds extended to K-12 schools.

She said the retrieval program allows students at the middle and high school level with a poor or failing grade to do additional work over the summer to recapture credit for that class.

In contrast, students working with the completion coach will have received an “incomplete” in place of a letter grade and will work to reconcile missing class material and any other work their instructor deems necessary. She said the program was originally used last summer but extended through the current school year and coming summer as well. She said Pullman teachers did not previously assign “incompletes,” but the district gave them the latitude to do so as part of its efforts to reconcile deficiencies caused by the pandemic.

“What happens is that the teachers that the student has had identify things that they might need to do in order to get credit, to shift it from an incomplete to a passing grade,” Kramer said. “The teacher works with them, checks in with what it is that they might need (and) provides some tutoring, if that’s what they need. We’ve found it to be very successful.”

Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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