Summer learning ideas for Twinsburg students vetted

April Helms
Akron Beacon Journal
The Twinsburg Board of Education, which met March 17, saw a presentation on the possible summer offerings for students.

TWINSBURG -- The Twinsburg City Schools are putting together summer plans to help students transition into the upcoming 2021-22 school year, after an eventful 2020-21 school year defined by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Superintendent Kathryn Powers said that the state has required school districts to come up with a recovery plan for students.

"They may have missed opportunities due to the pandemic, or have learning deficiencies," Powers said. She added the district has "probably spent the last month to identifying a process" of identifying the students most in need.

Jennifer Farthing, the director of curriculum, said during the presentation of the district's outlined proposals for summer programming, that the plan was still being fine-tuned.

"This is a brainstorming document," Farthing said. "Some of the plans submitted tonight may change their format."

Farthing said that in February, Gov. Mike DeWine requested that districts come up with plans that could include summer programming, tutoring, remote options, extending the current school year or beginning the new year early. Districts were asked to provide these plans by April 1.

Many plans will be dependent on available staffing, Farthing said. 

One potential program would be a summer reading camp that would be offered on-campus, Farthing said. The focus would be on first through third grade students, and would include a two- to three-week intensive reading instruction sometime in late July or early August. There would be no more than 15 students per grade, and no more than five students per class. 

"We want to see them and have them back face-to-face," Farthing said. 

Other options, including Extra Scoop which would be aimed at first through sixth grades, would have virtual and on-campus options, Farthing said. These would be three hours a day three days a week over nine weeks in July and August. The focus, she said, would be on reading, math and social-emotional learning. 

In addition, acceleration academies would be offered to incoming seventh- and eighth-graders, which would focus on reading and math for two weeks with on-campus classes in June. 

Acceleration academies for high school students also would be offered for two weeks in June on-campus, Farthing said. Classes would include English 9 and 10, Algebra and Geometry.  

The above would not be taken for credit, but with the emphasis on identifying weaknesses and closing gaps, Farthing said.

Students also could, for credit, take elective options, Farthing said. Possibilities being discussed include art, business classes, and world language, which would be good for one credit hour, and would be 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. between June 7 and July 2. Personal fitness also could be offered for half a credit.

In addition, credit recovery would be offered for students who failed courses this school year, Farthing said. Students can take up to three classes, with a typical tuition payment of $250, for three weeks in June. 

Last summer, the district offered a three-week skills camp, which cost $70,493, which was paid for through CARES funding.

"We had 78 students who came faithfully," Farthing said.

This summer, the district plans on utilizing the services of Beech Brook, which the Twinsburg schools already work with for services such as counseling, Farthing said.


Older students will remain in hybrid

The district's seventh through 12th grade students will finish the end of the year taking classes in hybrid mode. The older students have been taking classes in-person two days per week, and online for the remainder of the school year.

The sixth grade students and younger have been taking classes in person five days a week for most of the school year; for a couple of weeks after winter break all students had been taking classes remotely.

Powers said she has received several emails from parents wondering if the older students could return to school five days a week for the final quarter of the school year. However, she said there were several issues with trying to set this up.

"I understand, the students, they are high school kids," Powers said. "They want to be together. But students would mix with students from the other groups. Given the fact that we will soon enter spring break, along with the disruption of the proficiency testing, I don't think this would be wise at this time."

Another issue is the difficulty in maintaining 6 feet social distancing in the buildings, Powers said. For this school year, the grades were reassigned buildings so the younger grades could go five days per week. In this past school year, preschool and kindergarten students went to Wilcox Primary School; first graders attended Bissell Elementary School; second through sixth grade went to the high school building; seventh through ninth-graders took classes at Dodge Intermediate School; and the district’s 10th through 12th graders went to R.B. Chamberlin Middle School.

The school board members agreed.

"I understand the parents' concerns, but I think many parents also expect us to finish as we started," said board president Tina Davis.

Board member Rob Felber said the district needed "to finish this out."

"It would be like jumping out of a plane with a parachute, then cutting your strings," Felber said.

This year's spring break is March 29 through April 2. The last day of school for students is May 27.

Twins Days Festival

Powers said that the Twins Days Festival committee has approached the district about using Tiger Stadium for its traditional Friday events for the 2021 Twins Days. Typically, Friday events have been in the commons area at the high school, Powers said, but with the pandemic the committee felt the stadium would make for a safer alternative. 

The board members all agreed that this would be acceptable.

"If Summit County were to approve, I think it's great," Felber said. "As long as they follow a plan, I would support this."

Powers said that guidance from the state on summer festivals was not out yet, but was expected in the next couple of weeks. The Twins Days committee would be expected to file a plan with Summit County Public Health for approval.

This year's Twins Days Festival, which has been known to attract twins and multiples from across the nation and from around the world, is scheduled for Aug. 6 through 8, with the theme of "The Roaring Twinties." 

Last year's festival was canceled due to the pandemic. 

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com