SCS summer school participation exceeds 1,000

By WILLIAM MARLOW / Special to the Reporter

COLUMBIANA — Shelby County Schools’ summer school program is set to conclude next week with one of the largest classes in the school district’s history, with over 1,000 students participating in the program thus far this summer.

Around 1,233 students have attended summer school since June, according to Leah Anne Wood, the school district’s director of instruction.

Wood currently oversees the summer school program, and said students in the program ranged from elementary to high-school age. Elementary and middle school students completed the program in June, and high schoolers are expected to be complete with the program by July 16.

“Students from all schools in Shelby County were involved in summer school this year. Overall, we have had great results and had a lot of kids with success stories,” she said.

Of the 1,233 students, elementary students comprised the largest group, with 600 students spanning kindergarten to the fifth grade, Wood said.

However, many of those students were enrolled in summer school in order to comply with adjusted reading-level standards enacted by the Alabama Literacy Act, according to Wood. Passed in 2019, the law requires third-grade students to read at their grade level before being allowed to enter the fourth grade.

High schoolers ranked the second largest group with 445 students, and middle schoolers comprised 188 students.

Of the 188 middle schoolers, 157 successfully completed the program and recovered a course credit.

The program was initially intended to conclude in June, but was extended by two weeks in order to accommodate high school students, and provide additional opportunities for these students to earn credits in order to be promoted to the next grade or to satisfy graduation requirements.

So far, more than half of these students have completed the program and recovered a course credit.

Wood described the county’s approach to the program as a systematic effort, and said that every one of the school district’s departments had been enlisted in helping facilitate summer school. The program was conducted both in-person and virtually this year due the pandemic.

“Whether it be transportation, providing meals, student services, nurses or finances, we wanted it to be a barrier-free summer school. So, this has really been a system wide effort,” she said.

According to Wood, the countywide program was launched in response to several factors, most notably to address learning loss that students have procured as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Superintendent Dr. Lewis Brooks said that school is making progress in addressing the issue and described this year’s summer school program as the most expansive in the school district’s history.

“We are looking at the data holistically, and I can’t give a timetable of how you overcome this. I believe how we continue to deal with it moving forward will be a process, but I have been very pleased with what I have seen of our schools so far,” he said.

Brooks said he is hopeful that the program will help address educational gaps that occurred during the pandemic, but that the school district is also currently waiting to receive more data from state officials regarding the issue before making a full assessment.