Registration is now open for summer school but some parents are concerned it’s not enough to make up for lost learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both the Grand Erie and Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic district school board are offering various online summer learning programs.
The Catholic board has an expanded course selection for secondary summer school and has two programs that address math and literacy needs. The Summer Math Program, a two-week, half-day course, is for current Grade 8 students who will be entering Grade 9 “de-streamed” math in September, and Camp Blast is a three-week, half-day program for students in Grades 1 to 3 who are struggling with reading. Grade 7 and 8 students can take “reach ahead” credits for secondary school.
Grand Erie is offering online summer programming for students in kindergarten through Grade 12. High school students will be able to recover credits, and elementary students can sign up for an online version of Camp Sail, a “camp-like experience” meant to build skills in math, reading and writing. The board is also offering “reach-ahead” courses.
Tracey Austin, manager of communications and community relations for the Catholic board, said the Ministry of Education has encouraged boards to offer summer programs to make up for learning loss caused by the disruptions in education, but noted they are “entirely optional and at the discretion of the family.”
“We’ve seen a slightly higher than normal enrolment so far, but that is to be expected as we expand our course offerings,” said Austin.
A recent study conducted by academics at Wilfrid Laurier, Western and Ryerson universities and the University of Toronto indicates that Ontario closed its schools for more weeks than any other jurisdiction in Canada during the pandemic. Ontario schools were closed for a total of 20 weeks from March 14, 2020 to May 15, 2021, the study found.
The study said the length of school closures impacts academic achievement and learning, particularly for the most vulnerable students.
“I appreciate the school boards offering different options for the kids to continue learning through the summer but it’s time our government steps up and reassesses their curriculum expectations, starts offering funding for more rigorous tutoring, or hires more in-school help for the growing number of kids who need it,” said Brantford resident Natashia Davis.
Davis’s son, Quinn, is a Grand Erie Grade 2 student. She is enrolling him in some private online courses over the summer.
“I would love to let my kid just be a kid through the summer but, unfortunately, the last two years of school make that impossible. A few hours here and there can make a big difference for kids who are just below government standards but not the ones who are almost a full grade behind.”
Teresa Martino of Brantford has children starting Grade 1 and Grade 9 in September with the Catholic board. “Nothing but in-class lessons and repeating the last two school years will make up for the time lost,” she said.
“I hate that the school boards have decided to push our children on to the next grade,” said Martino. “Teachers next year will have a huge mess to deal with, especially with those students entering high school. My teenager is nowhere near ready for high school and no amount of summer school will be adequate enough to prepare him.”
Barbara Myltschenko said her son, who’s in Grade 5, can participate in only two programs offered by Grand Erie – both close to the end of summer for one week, two hours a day.
“That’s woefully inadequate for what they have missed,” said Myltschenko, who is looking into other options for her son, including private tutoring and paid online instruction. “Although our teacher was amazing this year, it’s just so hard for all of them.”
But Carolyn Freeman, who homeschools her children, said the pandemic has helped her family.
“As life-long homeschoolers, we found the added available online public resources a huge benefit,” said Freeman. “I realize this has not been the reality for many who have relied on government education or have been dealing with a different set of challenges.”
Freeman’s 17-year-old son will be enrolling in a summer math program with the Grand Erie board so he can transition to the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program.
JoAnna Roberto, director of education for Grand Erie, said summer school is designed to meet various student needs, including targeted supports for “vulnerable and underserved” student groups. She said Grand Erie also will be offering mental health supports and resources for students and families.
Registration is also open for the Summer Read On tutoring program offered by the Brantford Public Library. It includes two weeks of free tutoring over the summer in literacy, math and French for students in Grades 2 to 6.