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Summer School Aims To Help Students Catch Up After The Pandemic

SALT LAKE CITY — School may be out for the summer for most children in Utah, but for hundreds of others, it just began.

Monday was the first day of summer school in the Salt Lake City School District and it’s changed a lot since the pandemic.

At Edison Elementary, up to 240 children were enrolled in summer school. At West High, that number was closer to 700 students. 

Across the board, the number of children in summer school is higher this year, as the district tries to get students who have fallen behind because of COVID-19 all caught up.

“We were just really excited to get them back in the building. The kids were really excited, too,” said Dr. Ana Rodríguez, assistant principal at Edison Elementary School.

Summer school is a lot different than in years past because of all the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

“Every year you think it’s a rough year, but that year proved to be the roughest ever,” said Rodríguez.

At the elementary level, school is being held in-person for five weeks, Monday through Friday, from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It’s a very full day.

The district looked at math and reading scores, targeted children who were falling behind and invited them to enroll.

“There were some students who did great online, but then I would say more than half did not. Online was very challenging for a lot of our students to focus,” said Rodríguez. “We have high expectations for our summer school to help these kids catch up and close some of the gaps that were left open because of the online teaching.”

This year, the Salt Lake City School District is also “hubbing” schools. That means one school will take students from all over.

“So they get to meet not just kids in their own building, but kids in their communities as well, and get to be around a lot of other kids and make more friends and socialize more,” said Rodríguez.

In the morning, students focus on math and reading. After lunch, they get to have more fun and do things like PE, art, music and dance.

Educators said they hope to give them a summer experience that’s more than just summer school.

“I just want the kids to leave being excited and wanting to come back the next day, and we’re hoping for the best summer yet,” said Rodríguez.

The summer school program is actually free for many children and there are still some spots open.

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