Remote revamp: Summer school transitions to online instruction

Local schools are working to move summer school online, an early sign that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will extend beyond the current school year.

The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District is preparing to transition its in-person summer school program to a distance learning model similar to what is being used this semester. The district’s adult school already offers online summer school for high schoolers, which will continue.

“This summer is going to look similar and completely different, all at the same time,” said Bill Pierce, the district’s director of alternative programs and Alta Vista High principal.

Typically, only students who receive a D or an F are eligible for summer school. In light of the switch to online learning, the district has moved to credit/no-credit grading this semester. Those who receive “no credit” in a class will be eligible to enroll in summer school, as well as those who need to make up a D or an F from a past semester.

Administrators are finding ways to rework the in-person program so students receive instruction online. The program is generally split into two sessions. Last summer 444 students finished the first session and 388 finished the second, Pierce said. How the size of summer school will change this year is still very much an open question.

The state has instructed districts that any changes to grading policies should “hold students harmless” for the transition to distance learning. If many more students appear on track to not receive credit than typically fail, associate superintendent Margarita Navarro said that would be a sign that students are being harmed. In that case, more would need to be done before the end of the school year to examine the course expectations and support students.

Even if the number of students needing to make up work from this semester doesn’t spike, students stuck at home may be more inclined to make up a failed course from a previous year, Pierce said.

Additional support

Whatever the final number of participants, the district is preparing for the fact that without face-to-face interaction with teachers, students are going to need more support to succeed.

“We’ll need much more follow-up than we typically need in a summer school program,” Pierce said. “In a regular summer school, there’s no homework; this year it’s all homework.”

The district is considering hiring extra staff, depending on enrollment numbers, to reduce class sizes and provide more individualized support. A class of more than 30 students isn’t practical for a remote summer school course, Pierce said.

This is especially true because students who require summer school may have already been struggling with the adjustment to remote learning. Home sometimes comes filled with distractions, Pierce said, adding that for many students, school is the peaceful respite.

Rather than having a set time each day when students must log in, Piece said one option being considered is offering multiple daily sessions, with students able to choose which ones to attend.

The other half of MVLA’s summer school program is already run online through the adult school using Odysseyware. Students can make up classes, as well as take health online to avoid having to take the course in person.

In a typical year, about 550-600 high schoolers participate in the adult school’s online summer school. This year, more than 500
applications were received in the first few days of the application window.

However, as the district finalizes information about the remote alternative to in-person summer school, some students may choose to switch, reducing demand for the adult school’s offerings, said Julie Vo, assistant director of the adult school.

Although courses were already online, students used to come in for orientation and to take certain assessments. This year, the orientation will be transitioned fully online and grades will be weighted more heavily towards quizzes, written assessments and projects
that can be completed at home.

Younger grades

At the elementary and middle school level, the Los Altos School District is also reimagining its summer school offerings. The district offers two types of summer instruction: an extended school year for certain special-education students and a reading intervention program.

The district is waiting to receive guidance on the specialeducation program to determine how to move forward.

As for the reading program, administrators are in the process of determining whether it is worth moving online or whether it is a better use of resources to offer additional support when school resumes in the fall.

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