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Summer school demand soars following pandemic learning loss

Some teachers are volunteering to teach to keep up with demand.

MANASSAS, Va. — Across the DMV, there has been a big increase in parents wanting to sign their kids up for summer classes this year. The demand is so great that some school districts in the area have been forced to turn students away.

In the Manassas Park City School District, teachers are volunteering to work this summer to help with the demand.

Erin Quinty and Emily Heflin are both teachers at Manassas Park Elementary. 

"There’s a lot of projects throughout the school year that we would typically do with our students and in the virtual setting, it was not always translating very well so just being able to really dig into the material a little bit more and have those experiences, that’s what’s really exciting," said fifth grade teacher Erin Quinty.

Third grade teacher Emily Heflin helped teach summer classes last summer and said the program was strictly virtual because of the pandemic. 

One big difference this year is that the summer curriculum is all in-person.

"So that’s another one of the goals of the program is not just to catch up on different skills that they may have needed, but also to get them acclimated back to the school environment again," said Quinty. 

"There is definitely this camp-like vibe we are trying to portray with the kids because we want it to be an escape for the kids and something fun for them to do while also learning," said Quinty.

The instructors both said their students have been enthusiastic about returning to the school building and eager to learn new things. "I just love hearing on the daily how excited they are to be back in the building," said Quinty.

"Now that they are back, they keep saying they want to be back forever and want to go to summer school. They are very excited to be in the building which is so amazing to see," said Heflin.

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For some students, it could be their first time back in the building since March 2020. The school district said the summer school curriculum is designed to help students get reacclimated to learning in the school buildings again.

"The summer school model is all going to be in person instruction, so our students will be coming in and the focus of the program is really more on projects and hands-on activities," said Quinty.

"I’m excited to kind of stretch outside the curriculum. It’s been difficult in the first place this year to keep the curriculum on pace and figure out how to teach it. In summer school, it’s just fun and camping and hands-on and it’s not sitting in front of a computer so I’m genuinely just so excited for these projects and just the fun of it all," said Heflin. 

While there has been a lot of talk about nationwide learning loss during the pandemic, Heflin and Quinty said they have seen a lot of growth come out of this season.

"We are all going through this crazy pandemic that we’ve never dealt with before so I think the gains far outstretch the losses. The emotional intelligence that came out of this, the awareness of their surroundings and how they affect the world and their peers, I made it’s incredible," said Heflin.

"I think that a lot of this year has been focused on learning loss but there's so much these kids have gained and a lot of skills that these third and fifth graders have on the computer and genuine executive functioning skills," said Quinty.

For more information about the 2021 summer programs proposal, click here.

  • Band Camp – 2 week intensive band program, three levels of band, HS students can join as band members or serve as Leadership Interns, will wrap up with a concert on the final day, free of charge to MP students.
  • Summer Explorations – K-8, all in person, based on weekly themes designed in interdisciplinary work, project based, includes options for trips to local parks and such. Offering robotics & band on alternate days to allow access by all to these programs.
  • High School – focused on graduation requirements, will include options like PE 9 & 10, EPF, and Independent Living. These have never been done before. We also plan to offer a GED option for students in need. Will be in person, but include a mix of online (via APEX) and teacher directed supports. Independent Living is target to our EL newcomers, it will be taught with an ESOL teacher and a CTE teacher and will run a different schedule (2 weeks in person, 2 weeks asynchronous, 2 weeks in person.
  • Bridge programs – offered at all levels in the first week of August, serving EL newcomers, long term ELs, AP students, and students transitioning to new buildings in the division.

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