This year will be like no other when it comes re-engaging students in learning.

Educators — working with parents and the community — are now planning how to close gaps in learning to get students on grade level. But job one is to address the social, emotional, and physical issues that will make academic learning more challenging if they are not met, particularly for the students who have fallen most behind.

Many students have not seen their teachers or friends for at least a year. They have not been able to borrow books from the library, take field trips or participate in hands-on learning activities.

That’s why what happens this summer matters.

It will take a combination of summer school and at least the first six weeks of the school year for students to readjust and get back to “normal.” During this transition period, educators will need to introduce wraparound services that address barriers to student learning.

As an elementary school teacher in Washington, D.C., who has worked with students before and during the pandemic, I believe summer school should reintroduce students to classroom routines and help them connect with each other, rebuild friendships and participate in outdoor activities. This year, many summer programs around the country, like the one at the school I work at, have been designed to be especially interactive.

Our students are participating in experiential learning opportunities and are gaining enrichment through reading, math and science, along with swimming, dance, and social and emotional learning (SEL) activities. Students are also getting unrestricted time for such things as reconnecting with friends at recess.

Summer school used to be a place for students who missed a significant amount of work during the school year. Today, it has shed that negative connotation, and the focus is on accelerating learning rather than on remediation. Summer programming in many districts now offers a variety of learning activities and flexible learning schedules.

Read the full article about academic students by Alejandro Diasgranados at The Hechinger Report.