An intensive summer school program is currently in the works for Haywood County students who may have fallen behind due to remote learning.

Now that N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper has signed House Bill 82, Haywood County school leaders are busy finalizing the plan to offer in-person summer school.

House Bill 82 — also called the Summer Learning Choice for NC Families bill — creates a fully funded, six-week, in-person summer program to address learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think every kid was impacted by this in some way or another,” said Jill Barker, assistant superintendent of public instruction. “This will focus on our most at-risk kids. And if enough students don’t attend, we can open it up for enrichment activities.”

This bill requires school districts to identify students who are at risk for failing and contact their families, which will be determined after End of Grade (EOG) testing. Parents would have the final say on whether their students will go to summer school.

Other students, who may not be considered at risk, can enroll if space allows.

Districts would make a plan for how to implement the program and submit it to the state Department of Instruction at least 30 days before the last day of classes.

“Haywood County Schools has to submit a plan toward the end of the month,” Barker said. “We have to provide 150 hours or 30 days and when you look at our calendar, that’s most of our summer. Right now we are trying to identify what that schedule is going to look like for families.”

The summer school program will be open to all students in grades K-12. Barker said students in grades K-2 will be learning reading and science, and grades 3-8 will focus on reading, math and science.

“The summer school for grades 9-12 is mostly focused on credit recovery and making sure the students are on track for graduation,” Barker said.

To make the final plans, Barker said the school system was sending out a survey to gauge teacher interest and will be meeting with all principals in the county to finalize plans on how many summer school sites and teachers will be needed.

How to pay for it

In the past, Haywood County Schools has offered a summer reading program for grades K-3 for its most at-risk students, but this year’s summer programing will not only be longer and more intensive, but it will be open to students in all grades.

House Bill 82 stipulates that the program cannot be held on Saturdays and will offer transportation and meals to students.

Fortunately, the state is about to drop a second wave of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER Funds), which will be used to fund the summer school.

Superintendent Bill Nolte said the state would be providing $6.2 million in ESSER funds, which is earmarked to help address negative impacts related to COVID-19. The funding can be spent through 2023.

“A big bulk of that money will be spent this coming summer with a long summer school,” Nolte said. “It will be used for learning loss, support services, air quality, sanitizer, more temperature stuff, technology, mental health services and needs for our special populations.”

Last spring, Haywood schools was able to use its first wave of ESSER funds to purchase level books, iPads, Chrome books, hand sanitizer, cleaner and Plexiglas. The second wave of funding is now being dropped to schools across the state.

“This is money we don’t always get,” Barker said. “We’re looking at this as an opportunity to make it worthwhile for our teachers and kids.”

Haywood County Schools will finalize its summer school plan within the next week and will present it during its next board of education meeting.

The next board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 10, in the Education Center in Clyde.

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