The Summer Ignite program opened last week in New Hanover County Schools, giving students a chance to accelerate and enrich their learning in math and reading before fall.
It might be taking place during the summer, but it’s much more than a camp.
“Teachers are working to make it as engaging as possible for the kids,” said Summer Ignite Director Dr. Anita Brown. “This is an opportunity to show some growth and help them get geared up and more prepared for the coming school year.”
More than 2,500 children in first grade through high school are enrolled in the program, which NHCS created after the state legislature passed the Summer Learning Choice for NC Families bill, requiring school districts to offer at least 30 days of in-person instruction to students at risk of repeating a grade or losing credits.
The longer, uninterrupted blocks of face-to-face instruction — including two hours of reading at the elementary level — allow students and teachers to really drill down into subjects and spur more growth in the span of a few weeks.
“That rigor is no joke,” said Ashley Cearfoss, site coordinator at Forest Hills Global Elementary. “But every time I’ve talked to a parent there’s so much appreciation for what a teacher can do versus what they thought they could do prior to all this.”
At the elementary level, sites are offering project-based learning to make math and reading fundamentals engaging.
“The kids crave it. They want the social interaction. They want to be at school,” Cearfoss said.
At Codington Elementary, teachers are guiding students through themed projects around this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, learning about Japanese culture while reading about the history of the Olympics and doing math problems around the competitions.
“We are implementing the curriculum with fidelity while still creating an opportunity for kids to have fun, because this is their summer,” said Codington Assistant Principal Kim Horton.
At the high school level, students have the chance to recover credits so they can graduate on time or avoid re-taking courses this fall.
“There have been a lot of kids who’ve struggled this year — socially, emotionally, academically. There are a lot of kids for whom remote learning is a challenge,” Brown said. “Hopefully when we sit down at the end of the summer, we will see growth for many of these kids.”
The scale of this summer’s offerings is much larger than in previous years and it has really taken a village to make it work, Brown said. It’s a reflection of how dedicated school employees are to preparing students for success next school year.
“We have almost 750 staff members who have come out — teachers, TAs, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, nurses, social workers, EC staff — you name it, they’re out in schools,” Brown said, “just trying to meet the needs of kids.”
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