McMinn Co. Schools creates summer learning programs

No kid wants to hear the words “summer school.” But McMinn County Schools Director isn’t planning for the traditional summer school.
Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 5:53 PM EST
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ATHENS, Tenn. (WVLT) - No kid wants to hear the words “summer school.” But McMinn County Schools Director isn’t planning for the traditional summer school.

They want to make it fun, and help kids catch up on what they didn’t learn because of the pandemic.

“We are going to load it up and give every opportunity that we can possibly give to kids to catch up,” said Lee Parkison, Director of Schools for McMinn County.

This school year’s been anything but ordinary for Julie Austin and her McMinn County students.

“We love routine in this house and it keeps getting paused,” said Julie Austin

Her first grader has had the most challenges.

Austin explained, “So there’s still no true consistency like a normal school year. So for him, just when he gets in the groove of things, things stop again. And when they have those breaks I feel like he regresses.”

Thanks to state funding Parkison said these new programs will go a long way.

“We want to make everything available to them to make this as accessible as possible over this next three years. We got a lot of catching up to do,” said Parkison.

It’s fun ways to help students retain the information they learned from the school year and maybe get ahead.

Austin agreed, “I think it’s a great idea.”

“I think it’s going to be big. And I think it’s going to be a positive for our community. It will help parents again, in the summertime. And there will be time for vacation too,” said Parkison.

There will be different programs. For rising kindergarten through fifth-grade programs will be six weeks, rising fifth through eighth-grade students will be able to participate in four-week programs with learning for 6 and a half hours a day and P.E.

Students will be learning English, language arts, science, technology, and math.

The programs will include lunch and snacks, provide transportation and on-site nurses and psychologists.

“It is a mass undertaking right in the middle of the school year to plan this and to get that money spent and put in the right places,” explained Parkison.

Austin also wants to help her fourth-grade son who needs to sharpen some of the details he may have left behind.

“I think to actually review some of the basics and some of the building blocks might be where we need to go with the summer program and if that was something that they were going to do, I would definitely be interested in sending my kids,” said Austin.

She hopes it could add more time with friends, too.

“I think even being in that program for those extended weeks with his classmates will give him those social skills that he missed out on,” said Austin.

The goal for Parkison is hoping students will bounce back.

Parkison said, “We will get it done. And we will get them caught up.”

Parkison hopes half the students in McMinn County Schools will apply. They will put out more information in the next couple weeks.

State funding will allow the county to utilize the next three summers for learning programs.

There will also be after school programs beginning in the fall for one hour a day, four days a week.

Loudon County Schools Director of Schools, Mike Garren, noted from March 2020 to August 2020 there was a two percent decrease in math and eight percent decrease in language arts and reading.

Garren said they plan to provide summer learning camps for grades 1-8 with an intensified focus on 1st and 2nd-grade students.

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