What the coronavirus shutdown could mean for summer school in Butler County

Summer school this year will be like none before it, say area school officials.

Because of the coronavirus shutdown of all Ohio public and private K-12 schools – started last month and running through at least May 1 – local school officials said they only have a cloudy vision of what summer school programs will entail.

And until state health and government officials give local school districts the go-ahead to re-open, officials don’t know if any summer instructional learning – or sports training, band practices or other extra-curricular activities - will even be conducted.

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At this point it’s all speculation, but among the various scenarios possible could be the conversion of summer break into final semester of the current 2019-2020 school year, so that students can complete their academic requirements to move on to the next grade for the scheduled start of the 2020-2021 school year in August.

Or summer school learning may primarily be remedial instruction for students who did not progress academically via remote learning programs – or their families did not have the necessary internet access - area public and private schools are offering.

As of now the only certainty is uncertainty when it comes to summer academics, sports, band and other activities for student, said area school officials.

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“Summer programming will certainly look very different than it has in the past,” said Matt Freeman, Director of Teaching & Learning for southern Warren County’s Kings Schools.

“In the past, summer programming focused on remediation and helping students close the gap with skills,” said Freeman.

“It’s possible this year that we will have larger numbers of students to serve, not because they didn’t understand the content, but because access to remote learning tools kept them from having the opportunity. We know some of our students will not have access at all. These are the students that our summer programming will likely target,” he said.

At southwest Ohio’s largest suburban school system, officials are planning for multiple scenarios.

“As this is a very fluid situation, it is too early for me to give you concrete plans as to what may happen this summer,” said Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for the 16,800-student Lakota Schools in Butler County.

“I can tell you that our curriculum department is putting plans in place as to how this state-mandated shutdown may affect our summer school program,” said Fuller.

Gina Gentry-Fletcher, spokeswoman for the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools, said “because of the uncertainty of the length of this school closure, we are currently in discussion about a contingency plan for the end of the year and our the summer school program. We will continue to monitor information from our state leaders and will act accordingly based on their directive.”

Planning can occur but it’s not easy, said Aaron Blankenship, athletic director for Fairfield Schools.

“Like every athletic department in the area, there are many questions surrounding our summer plans,” said Blankenship. “While we’ve started to have conversations about the summer months, at this point, we’ve found it to be very difficult to speculate which athletic summer camps, training, and events may impacted by COVID-19.”

Holli Morrish, spokeswoman for Talawanda Schools, said “we are just trying to hang in there.”

“The district is patiently waiting to find out whether Governor DeWine will permit us to return to school in May, and of course that will determine if the district can return to clubs, sports, tryouts, band and Future Farmers of America (FFA) where staff and students are face-to-face again,” said Morrish.

Planning for the summer break is difficult, given so many variables remain unknown, said Morrish.

Right now, she said, “we stay focused on our (student) food distribution program and remote learning.”

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