Nearly 200 Lowndes Co. students taking summer school classes to fill gaps in education after COVID-19 disrupted learning in 2020

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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – In Lowndes County, school is not out for summer in 2021.

But JoLynne Robertson’s first grade class doesn’t seem to mind.

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“For the most part, they’re all excited and happy to be here,” she says. “And they really do try.”

Her eight New Hope Elementary students are among the nearly 200 kids taking advantage of the Lowndes County School District’s new extended school year program, which runs from the second week of June through the first week of July.

“It’s hard to be in school when it’s summertime but we’ve got some really good teachers that are making it very engaging for those students,” says Lowndes County School District Superintendent Sam Allison.

After COVID-19 disrupted the school year in 2020, Allison says several students were left with gaps in their education.

“(Because they) miss nine weeks of school, and then you come back, some virtual some not,” he says. “Especially in your younger grades where it’s so important that you’re, you’re reading every day you’re doing your math back to every day.”

“I taught the same kids in kindergarten the year before,” Robertson says. “So we came in and first grade this year. And we started the year. And notice that many things that I had taught and that they knew routinely, they had lost over that time period.”

2021 is the first time New Hope Elementary has offered summer school in at least 10 years. They’ve also opened up other school facilities, like the library.

The school district used federal COVID relief funding to pay teachers, rent buses, and buy school supplies to make sure students can build that strong foundation for learning.

“This week, we’ve been reviewing whether they hear the difference between a short vowel sound and a long vowel sound,” Robertson says.

Classes run from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Students also get free breakfast and lunch through the USDA Summer Feeding Program. The classes are centered around English language arts and math.

“Today we’ve been working on addition and subtraction, greater than, less than,” Robertson says.

Allison says if the number of students and parents interested in the program continues to add up, it could be around for the summer of 2022 as well.