QPS summer school 'just different' this year

By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 31, 2020 12:01 am

QUINCY — Hundreds of Quincy Public Schools students will be back in class — but not in school — starting next week.

Summer school begins Monday for K-5 and Quincy Junior High School students and Monday, June 8 for Quincy High School students. Classes end June 26 for the lower grades and July 2 for QHS.

The programs, with a remote learning format, still will work to help struggling and at-risk students be better prepared for the coming school year.

"In the past it's always been all students come together in one school to learn together in the classroom," said Amber Whicker, who oversees the K-5 program expected to serve around 324 students.

This year, "it's just different," Whicker said, with students working primarily with peers from their own building on literacy, math or both through Zoom sessions with teachers.

"Instead of a teacher going into normal summer school and teaching a group in the morning, a group in the afternoon, it's three shorter sessions with different groups of kids throughout the day," Whicker said. "Each teacher's schedule looks different. It all depends on what families need. Some have two sessions in the morning, one later in the evening."

Students were identified for summer school using data gathered prior to the shutdown of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coordinators in each K-5 building and teachers then reached out to families to invite participation and set up classes.

"The benefit for teachers is we're forcing ourselves to learn new technology and ways of engaging kids. It's an opportunity to try out some new things digitally," Whicker said.

After a fourth quarter of remote learning to end the school year, "it's kind of moving in 'OK, we've got a new group of kids, we're going to keep going with this," said Julie Marshall, who coordinates the QJHS summer school program. "Hopefully it gets the kids that really need the added help where they need to be by the end of June."

The remote learning program will serve a smaller number of junior high students, 90 this summer compared to the typical 160 to 170, with a smaller staff.

"This is all new to us for this summer," Marshall said. "I'm eager to see how we get everything to line out."

Marshall said 60 sixth- and seventh-grade students will work with teachers on math, science, English language arts and history in Zoom classes. Students will have three structured hours to work with teachers and an extra hour to work on independent learning

Also new this year, 30 eighth-grade students will be able to earn a half credit in a speech class "to get a head start in high school," Marshall said. "It's really helped with the buy-in for students to participate and want to participate in summer school."

Quincy High School will offer two programs with online courses again this summer with students working from home with teachers through Zoom.

About 150 students needing to complete one or two semester credits have registered so far for the traditional program using Edgenuity offered Monday through Friday. The second program, for students needing to recover three or more semester credits, which typically serves around 125, will be offered Monday through Thursday through Schoology.

"This year there is no cost for QHS students in either program, so there's no reason not to do it if needed," QHS summer school coordinator Mindy Jackson said. "They can contact me or their counselor to get enrolled."

Driver's education classroom is available through Zoom, but the district has not been cleared to offer behind-the-wheel driver's education. "If we are, we will get the word out," Jackson said.

Because of the school shutdown, behind-the-wheel was not offered in fourth quarter, meaning those students as well as those who planned to take it over the summer will need the instruction. "We will do our best to catch up. We will have extended hours when we're able to provide behind-the-wheel," Jackson said.

Registration for the Edgenuity or driver's ed classroom is available online at Registration for the Schoology courses is available by contacting a QHS counselor.

At all grade levels, the overall goal for summer school, Whicker said, is to keep students engaged in learning.

"Hopefully they'll take away the fact that, regardless of where we are, online or in the classroom, learning is extremely important, and we want them to have fun while doing it," Whicker said. "The more work we put in now, the better off we'll be in the fall."