Murray County Schools to offer summer school

File/Daily Citizen-News

Leslie Bowen, a second-grade teacher, walks her class around Eton Elementary School in September 2019. Murray County Schools will offer summer school for nearly 1,900 students in grades kindergarten-eight this year to make up for learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

CHATSWORTH — In an effort to catch students up on learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, Murray County Schools will offer summer school to nearly 1,900 students.

"There's a learning void (because) we left last year in March for 10 weeks (due to COVID-19, then) all the quarantines this year," said Superintendent Steve Loughridge. "I hope (every student we've invited to summer school) shows up."

"We want to do everything we can to get them here (because) they need it," Loughridge said. "We need to get them caught up."

Summer school will be offered July 12-Aug. 12 from 8 a.m. to noon Monday-Thursday. Meals and transportation will be provided.

The system has invited 293 students in grades three-eight for Pathway to Promotion, and attendance is required for these students, as they have one or more failing grades. Failure to attend could result in being retained at the previous grade/failure to be promoted to the next grade.

Ultimately, a committee comprised of a child's principal and teachers will decide if a student can be promoted to the next grade, but parents of that child can appeal that decision to the superintendent, Loughridge said. His decision, however, is final.

Nearly 1,600 students in kindergarten-grade eight have been invited to Return to Learn, a voluntary offering this summer, said Barbie Kendrick, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. These 1,596 students have passing grades and will be promoted to the next grade, but "could use extra help, and we'll highly encourage them to attend."

Invitations for Pathway to Promotion and Return to Learn were offered based on student scores on multiple standardized tests, as well as teacher recommendations, Loughridge said.

"The problem is not going away, and if we just push it down the road (by not offering additional, necessary instruction), we're not helping (students) any."

"We've not had summer school for years, but we've learned from (ineffective) summer school years ago," Loughridge added. "This is something we all need to get behind supporting."

Students will take pre-tests and post-exams "so we can measure growth" during summer school, said Spencer Gazaway, director of secondary education. "Before, we had no idea how effective summer school was, but now we can measure that."

It's impossible to estimate a cost for summer school, "because we have no idea how many students we'll have," and the number of students will drive the number of teachers, Loughridge said. Classes will be capped at 20 students, so, at most, 100 teachers will be required.

"We can't force teachers (to do this), because it's outside their contract," but they'll likely be paid time-and-a-half for their services "as an incentive," Loughridge said. Murray County Schools received roughly $6 million from the second federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and will use that funding to pay for summer school.

Principals have already provided lists of teachers who volunteered for summer school, Gazaway said. "We'll select teachers who will be most effective off of those lists."

The 20-day summer school will offer a "compact, concise, streamlined curriculum," Kendrick said. Half of each day will be devoted to math, with the other half dedicated to English language arts/reading.

For grades kindergarten, one and two, "the foundations of reading will be hit really hard," but the entire curriculum is "very intensive, a shot in the arm," said Kelly Rogers, director of elementary and early learning. "The investment of time (four hours a day for 20 days) is pretty minimal for the return."

Summer school sites have not been finalized, Kendrick said. However, the school system is considering using one elementary school on the north side of the county, another elementary building on the south side, and both high schools (Murray County and North Murray).

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