As one of the stranger summer sessions in recent memory begins Wednesday, Alachua County high school students are gearing up in different ways.
In the past week, some students stepped foot on their school campuses for the first time in over a month. Others returned to pick up their graduation caps and gowns. Still more, prepared for what summer school might look like.
Alachua County recovery courses, known as CROP, are traditionally taught through an online program that is completed in-person on school campuses. Now, students have the option to finish summer courses completely from home — by picking up paper packets — or on campus, using school computer labs that will re-open on a handful of campuses.
A key factor in ensuring students’ success during the summer of 2020, and every summer, is making sure that all students have access to the tools they need to learn. Apparent before coronavirus, an achievement gap existed in Alachua County between low-income students and their more affluent peers. Often, students without access to books or the internet halt learning in the summer while their peers are still able to rake in knowledge. Providing each student the resources for success means assisting in closing that gap.
Santa Fe High School teacher Elizabeth Treese is one of the educators overseeing CROP this summer. At her school, the computer lab will be open, observing CDC guidelines, so that students have the ability to be around teachers and peers while they complete their summer courses.
“I’m excited about seeing the kids again and having them back in school,” Treese said. “I think it’s going to help them.”
In addition, since students have been out of the classroom Alachua County has provided laptops and access to internet hotspots, granting all students access to their online courses and homework. This practice will continue through the summer, so that students without access to a computer lab will still have the ability to complete online summer courses.
One ingenious way students districtwide will be provided internet access is by equipping school buses with internet hotspots and allowing them to park in residential areas for a few hours, giving students the time to get online and complete their assignments. Sondra Jones, a bus driver with the county, said that there are between 80 to 90 buses that go out during the week to provide students with internet access. While the students are not allowed on the buses, they are given a three-hour block to connect to the hotspot and stay on top of their assignments.
A big part of the transition to online learning, especially with it continuing through the summer, is making sure that both the students and the teachers have the support and access they need to communicate with one another. Santa Fe High School principal, Elizabeth LeClear, said the district was very helpful during the initial transition to online learning, and support is going to continue into the summer semester.
“When you think about showing compassion and grace, you really are trying to make sure that everyone is comfortable and everyone is where they need to be so that we can meet the needs of our kids,” LeClear said.