NORTH LITTLE ROCK -- The School District will offer an in-person summer school program in hopes of mitigating some of the learning loss created by the covid-19 pandemic.
The School Board has approved a five-week summer school program for the entire district. The program will run from June 7 through July 8 for secondary school students, and from June 14 to July 15 for elementary school students.
Superintendent Gregory Pilewski said summer school will be mandatory face-to-face instruction for students who are in need of academic recovery, but is also open to those who want to accelerate their learning.
"Our primary target is students who have not been successful because of the pandemic, primarily in the areas of attendance and academic performance," he said. "It will be mandatory for those students, but it will be offered to all students.
"We want to get our kids caught up the best we can."
Pilewski said the district is in the process of reaching out to parents to let them know if their child needs to attend the mandatory program.
The district is one of the first to announce summer plans, and Pilewski said the reason is simple.
"The primary driver is to mitigate the learning loss," he said. "We have to get the information out that we are having a summer program that is face to face and on site in hopes of getting our kids caught up and prepared for the next school year in the fall. This is sort of a massive ICU for intense support for our students."
Arkansas school districts are in different stages of developing summer learning programs -- sometimes in coordination with community partners -- that are more expansive than what has been provided in previous years.
The Academics Plus Charter School system based in Maumelle, for example, is offering half-day sessions in the month of June for all students who want to raise achievement. The summer lessons are mandatory for those who will otherwise be retained in their current grades because of low achievement, Chief Executive Officer Rob McGill said.
Previously the charter system only offered credit recovery programs for high school students.
The Little Rock School District is surveying the public about possible summer learning plans as well as plans for the upcoming 2021-22 school year. The survey will be conducted through May 1.
Kimberly Mundell, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, said Friday districts can use portions of their federal covid-19 relief money for summer learning opportunities for students.
"We encourage them to do that," Mundell said. "However, it is up to the districts to make those decisions."
Pilewski said North Little Rock has targeted 1,600 students in need of the program, but expects the numbers to rise with volunteer participation.
"We want to sit down with the student's parents and guardians and have a discussion about the whole child," he said. "We want to tell them by making it mandatory it will help your child learn."
Information for this article was contributed by Cynthia Howell.