Philly school district to offer expansive, in-person summer programs

Malika Savoy-Brooks, the district's chief of academic support, speaks Thursday, April 8, about expanded summer programming for students.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Summer academic programming will be available for all public school students in the city, and it will be in-person, School District of Philadelphia leaders announced Thursday.

Among the offerings will be a semester for high schoolers who recently failed a class; a combined camp and curriculum for elementary school students; and an initiative aiming to support pre-kindergartners and kindergartners transitioning to in-person classes in the fall.

All families of students entering grades 1 through 12 will be able to enroll in full-day programs, officials said.

The summer curriculum is set to begin June 28 and run for five-to-six weeks. Right now, administrators plan to open up 24 schools but are prepared to use a total of 39 and “more if necessary,” said Malika Savoy-Brooks, the district’s academic support chief.

Superintendent William Hite told reporters that the district wants to create “a bridge from what students have learned to what they will be learning in school next year.”

Officials said teachers and other employees will be given the opportunity to work over the summer, and Savoy-Brooks said the district is considering hiring more people to fill the need.

“We are prepared to support as many students as possible in our district,” she said. “We are not going to stop the program due to not having enough staff.”

Hite said the summer initiative will be funded by a portion of the $1.2 billion the district is getting from the recently-passed stimulus bill, called the American Rescue Plan.

All the programs are voluntary, but some are “highly encouraged,” particularly for those entering 9th grade or struggling with high school courses, Savoy-Brooks said.

District officials have identified 14,000 students who need additional support; however, Hite said, the summer programs are also for those who have done well with virtual classes but are tired of being inside and want to connect with peers.

Superintendent William Hite speaks to reporters Thursday, April 8, about expanded summer opportunities for students.PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

For students in grades 1 through 8, the school system is partnering with the city, which has long offered summer camps, typically at recreation centers.

Deputy Mayor Cynthia Figueroa said this year’s programming will be different in that there will be an academic component for children in the morning, with arts, athletics and other extracurriculars later in the day.

“Last year at this time, we were trying to contemplate what a summer would look like, and I’m so excited that we’re in such a unique and, I think, different place,” Figueroa said.

Next week, Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration will unveil a larger summer plan for youth in the city, she added.

In addition to the elementary curriculum, the district’s Summer Bridge program, which is usually for rising 9th graders, has been expanded to include those entering 10th grade.

Another high school initiative, dubbed Quarter 5, will be for students who failed a course during the 2020-21 school year. They will have the opportunity to improve their grades and stay on track for graduation, officials said.

There will be a career immersion program, where high schoolers will be able to get a paid work experience, and a course for English language learners, with the goal of reaching new immigrants and beginners.

Everything will be in-person, except for the Extended School Year program for students with disabilities, which will include a digital component for parents not comfortable with face-to-face instruction.

Some School District of Philadelphia pre-k to 2nd grade students returned to in-person classes last month, coming into buildings twice a week on a hybrid schedule.

Students in 3rd to 5th grade and those with complex needs in grades 6 through 8 will have the chance to return beginning the week of April 26.

A selection window for parents of children in those grades to opt into the hybrid plan opened earlier this week and will close Tuesday. Families can choose to remain 100% virtual.

There is no timeline for the return of other grade levels, though Hite has maintained that the district will try to bring back as many students as possible this school year.

Registration for the summer programs opened Thursday. For more information, go to www.philasd.org/summer2021.

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