Summer learning a hit at A-C Valley

Staff writer

One of the biggest casualties for school districts in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic has been “learning loss” due to a variety of factors including a two-month-long shutdown at the end of the 2019-20 school year and a number of switches from face-to-face instruction to virtual learning due to COVID-19 outbreaks this school year.

The Allegheny-Clarion Valley School District took a proactive approach to help those students who might have fallen through the cracks in the system due to COVID-19.

The district opened summer school programs this year for both high school and elementary school students who were identified to have suffered learning loss due to the pandemic.

At the A-C Valley school board’s regular voting meeting on June 17, A-C Valley Elementary Principal Lori Sherman informed the board that the summer school program at the elementary school has been a success.

Sherman detailed how the summer school program, called the A-C Valley Summer Skill Building Camp, was not like a traditional summer school program.

“The way we are running the camp is; we have five rotations the kids go through between nine o’clock and 11 o’clock (in the morning) and they spend around 22 minutes each in those rotations,” Sherman said. “Those five rotations are reading, math practice, math task, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics); progress monitoring combined with a computer-based math game.”

Making the camp activities fun was one of the goals of the program. One way Sherman said the instructors were making the camp fun was by having Elementary Music Instructor Jennifer Lowrey introduce music into the math projects.

“The kids seem to be having fun while they are learning,” Sherman said.

At the time of this writing, there had been nine days of camp held and Sherman said the students who were in attendance all nine days were enjoying the camp.

There were 22 elementary students invited to take part in the camp and Sherman said 18 students were regular attendees.

Sara Black is the camp curriculum coordinator while instructors at the camp along with Lowrey are Sarah Hile, Stefanie Best, and Emily Redfoot.

There were no grades given during the camp and instructors were just to simply monitor the progress of the students and check for understanding along the way. Students were also to complete a survey at the beginning and end of camp.

Funding for the summer school camps came via the ESSER II grant. One of the areas where a portion of the ESSER II and III grants are to be used is in the area of learning loss.

Sherman enlightened the board of how the student evaluations at the camp were done. She stated the students were evaluated on where they should be academically according to standards for each discipline. The students wouldn’t be evaluated in every area but there would be enough of an evaluation to see who was making progress. Sherman said most of the students in the camp were making progress toward reaching the benchmarks needed to progress to the next grade.

Transportation was provided to the children who needed it.

Sherman hopes to keep the camp going for as long as possible. Funding for the camp will be available through the ESSER III grant for the next couple of years.

Sherman stated after the meeting she would like to see the program become permanent if the district can find room in the budget for it.