One in four RCPS elementary school students invited to continue lessons through June
Though their school year officially ends this week, a larger than usual number of the county’s public school students will be returning to classrooms after Memorial Day.
About 125 Rappahannock County elementary school students — roughly one out of four — have been invited to take a month more of lessons to help them catch up after a year of hybrid schedules and virtual learning. So far, 70 have confirmed that they will attend the sessions, which begin next Tuesday and run through June 24. In a more typical year, 75 to 100 elementary school students are asked to participate, according to Rappahannock County Public Schools Superintendent Shannon Grimsley.
Forty students in the high school have been extended a summer school invitation, a bit more than usual. Grimsley said the increase in attendance is intentional.
“Any time the learning environment has been disrupted or changed drastically, as it has been the past year, you can anticipate a certain amount of academic slide or learning loss,” she said.
In the high school, the focus will be on helping students recover credits they will need to be able to graduate. For elementary school students, the aim will be broader: To help students who had failing grades or didn’t complete assignments, but also those who simply seemed to fall behind based on assessments taken during the year.
“We invited anyone we thought could benefit from it,” said Elementary School Principal Lisa Gates. “Some of them really need to come or we may not be able to move them to the next grade level. But some of them just need the remediation piece of going over things they may not have understood.”
Gates noted that the school will make an effort to limit the number of students kept from moving on to the next grade. Instead, next fall, it will add “transitional classes” through the third grade, and maybe beyond. These will be designed to provide more focused reviews for groups of students who have fallen behind others at their grade level.
“We’re going to try to individualize this as much as possible or keep it in small groups,” Gates said. “We want to be able to hone in what the kids need as individuals. Our goal is to meet students where they are, and help them show progress.
“We’re going to try to use those transitional classes to help kids get caught up rather than retain them at their current grade level.”
Gates said a pilot transitional class for first graders this past school year proved “very beneficial.”
But since most kids would rather start their summer vacations than return to the classroom, the elementary school is throwing in an enticement. Students who attend two of the three weekly sessions — running from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Wednesday — will be eligible to go on an outing that Thursday at Graves Mountain. It’s being organized by Jenny Kapsa, the school district’s Profile of a Graduate coordinator who oversaw the popular Wonderful Wednesday program the past school year.
Summer sessions at the high school run Monday through Thursday.
The Wakefield Country Day School is also offering what it’s calling “COVID catch-up” sessions in science, math and grammar as part of its weekly Summer Academy programs. The Academy runs from June 21 to July 30, and costs $325 per week. For a schedule, go to https://wcdsva.org/summeracademy/.
Mental health help
One part of Rappahannock County Public Schools that will stay open through the summer is the mental health service of the new Wellness Clinic. Students will be able to continue seeing the therapist they’ve been meeting with every Tuesday the past month.
By fall, the clinic will likely begin scheduling an additional day of therapy sessions to meet the demand, said Kathy Sickler, the school district’s social worker. That said, she thinks the attitudes of many students have “brightened” over the past few months.
“I’m pleased,” she said. “When school returned to four days in-person, I felt like we moved toward more of a sense of normalcy. A lot of their issues became more normal school drama problems.”
Still, Sickler said she wouldn’t be surprised to see some long-term consequences of the pandemic.
“I worry about the prolonged isolation, and the greater dependence on social media because of the isolation,” she said. “And, there’s definitely been a rise in substance use. Mainly marijuana and alcohol. For families, too. It’s become a coping skill for a lot of people.”