The number of students enrolled in summer school is expected to exceed the estimated 3.3 million who attended in 2019

By Joelle Goldstein
June 07, 2021 04:47 PM
Children with protective face masks drawing
Children wearing protective face masks in school
| Credit: Getty

Summer is approaching — but for millions of kids around the nation, that may mean a return to the classroom.

As the pandemic continues to disrupt education around the U.S., more children than ever are expected to enroll in summer school this year, according to the Associated Press.

Though no official count has been released, it is expected that the number of enrolled students will exceed the estimated 3.3 million who attended summer school in 2019, the AP reported.

In Montgomery, Alabama, where 28,000 students are enrolled in the school system, more than 12,000 students signed up for summer classes before the June 1 deadline, AP reported. That number was about five times the amount of kids that usually attend summer school, according to the outlet.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, 14,700 students had enrolled in summer school, with more expected to sign up for the in-person programs. Like Montgomery's schools, the 14,700 enrollees marked a major increase from the 9,300 students that attended last summer's all-virtual sessions, the AP reported.

Back to school
Students in school

"This year was such an unmotivating school year," Las Vegas high school freshman Taylor Dennington told the AP. "It got to the point where I wasn't doing any work, I was just going to class."

Now enrolled in biology and math summer classes, Dennington added, "I learn better in school than online. Being in a classroom where a teacher is present is so much better than waiting hours for an email back from your teacher."

As the numbers continue to rise, school districts have been expanding their summer plans to meet the demands, the AP reported.

This includes opening their programs to students beyond the typical demographic — those who come from poor families, who do not speak English as their primary language or who are homeless or in foster care — and, for some teachers and staffers, offering incentives to work, according to the outlet.

Some teachers in North Carolina have been offered a $1,200 bonus if they work, while a district in Anderson, South Carolina said they'd double their teachers' summer school salary to $60 an hour, the AP reported.

In Texas, teachers and nurses in Spring Branch have been receiving raises of up to 20%, which is similar to teachers in the Starkville Oktibbeha school system in Mississippi, who have seen their hourly rate increase from $10 to $35 for the summer, according to the outlet.

College students in Connecticut have also been given an incentive to help, with the state offering $4,500 stipends to 500 college students who work at K-12 summer programs, the AP reported.

Bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria employees have also been considered and included in the incentive plans, according to the AP.

"It's an understatement to say the needs are greater this year," Kalman Hettleman, an education policy analyst in Maryland, told the AP. "It's not realistic to think that summer school, no matter how good and intense, will close all the gaps because many of these kids had gaps before the pandemic."

"But," Hettleman pointed out, "it will help, and it will at least give them a fighting chance if there are intense interventions during the regular school year."

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The news comes less than two months after the U.S. Department of Education announced the launch of the Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative.

The program — which gives support to 46 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Bureau of Indian Education, and three territories — provides "federal pandemic relief funding to support as many students as possible through enriching and educational summer programming."

In their release, the Department of Education called summer programs "key in the nation's efforts to address lost instructional and extracurricular time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic."

"Too many students have experienced interruptions in learning and negative effects on their social and emotional wellbeing due to time apart from friends and community," Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. "Summer presents a key opportunity for school districts and community partners to accelerate learning and provide new avenues for students to safely engage with each other in fun activities."

"Let's use this moment to reimagine what fun, engaging summer programming can look like, make it accessible for all students, and work together to make sure our communities recover and rebuild stronger than they were before the pandemic," Cardona added.