Summer school helps bring students up to speed

Saltillo Primary School kindergarten teacher Michelle Presley reads to her summer school class of pre-kindergarten students as assistant Ashley McCoy, right, looks on.

Lee County Schools, along with most other districts in the county, are offering summer school opportunities of one form or another for students who need a boost to advance to the next grade. In the case of Lee County Schools, it has been many years since a summer school program has been offered. Federal funds made available in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which ended school a couple months early last year, have made the summer programs possible. In the county schools, summer school began Monday and ends on June 25. Ideally, students in danger of failing and having to repeat a grade will be brought up to speed and allowed to proceed with their education. The effort at Saltillo Primary School is a good example of what is going on. There, according to Principal Brad Jackson, there were 125 students – grades pre-K to second – initially registered; as of Tuesday, 115 students were in attendance for the 8 a.m.-noon sessions. Jackson attributed the absences mostly to families who are on vacation. With 14 teachers onboard, an average of about nine students per class are receiving instruction in areas where they are weakest. Jackson said the teachers are all SPS regular faculty and include an assistant in most all classes. Although the district offers no pre-k curricula, Jackson said daycare providers were asked for recommendations of students who might need the remedial instruction to succeed in kindergarten, which is offered at Lee County schools. “We are liking the ability to introduce the pre-kindergartners to school procedures,” Jackson said, pointing out that the classes and school day of the summer program mirrors a regular school experience. For example, attendees receive breakfast and a “grab-and-go” lunch each day at no charge just as they would in regular school sessions although the lunch during regular school is eaten in the cafeteria. The pre-kindergartners’ program is called “Key Up.” At SPS, there are four pre-K classes and two classes each in kindergarten through second grade, which is the school’s usual population. An unexpected benefit of the summer school program has been the emergence of veteran students taking up leadership roles: “It’s creating natural leadership,” said Jackson. “A kid got out of his parent’s car crying this morning and another student said, ‘You can walk with me.’” The crying student hushed. “It’s beneficial to the individual student and the school’s operation,” Jackson said. “I am confident it will continue next (summer). It’s a learning experience for us, too. The support from the central office has been phenomenal.” At the district central office, LCS Superintendent Coke Magee said summer school of some sort is in “every school” of the county district. In the Tupelo Public School District, it’s called summer enrichment in grades K-6, summer school in grades 7 and 8 and credit recovery in grades 9-12 (also in the county high schools). In the latter instance, students at risk of not being promoted or graduated can take remedial instruction in the subject or subjects that were preventing their advancement. Magee said the district is also offering an ACT Test Camp to improve students’ ability to score highly on the college entrance exam. “It’s all open to all students,” Magee said. “Some students attend by choice.” He said registered students are required to attend and to participate in the class activities. “A lot of students missed a lot of school last spring,” said Magee. Schools were closed in March and didn’t reopen until August. “A lot of folks were involved in getting this started and we have really worked together.” Baldwyn and Nettleton schools are also providing summer instruction.

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