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Tampa Bay school districts step up to prevent COVID summer slide

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Posted at 6:20 PM, Apr 14, 2021

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — You may have heard of the summer slide. It’s the gap in learning that puts kids behind after a summer off from school. This year, district leaders are worried about an even greater challenge: A COVID summer slide after a full year of pandemic hurdles.

Yet, our local districts are stepping up to make sure kids aren’t missing a beat. It’s welcome news for St. Pete mom Susanna Cooney who has been doing her best to keep her kids learning despite all the challenges.

“I think it’s definitely important to spend time with the kids and teach them new things especially with everything they’ve been through and all the shutdowns and everything changing,” she said.

Typically, kids who take off the summer months from learning fall behind two full months once they return to school in the fall, according to Pinellas County Schools Associate Superintendent of Learning Kevin Hendrick. Hendrick says the impact is even greater during COVID.

“When you factor in a pandemic, and some learning loss that occurred to no fault of anyone, students could be 4,5,6 months behind,” he explained.

Pinellas County is now expanding its free Summer Bridge program to include nearly every school in the district and free transportation.

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“This summer is especially important and unique in a lot of ways because of the learning loss students have experienced but mostly because we want to get students into this return to normal,” Hendrick said.

Registration for the 4-week program is already proving popular. The district says they expect to double normal enrollment this summer.

Although the Pinellas County School District just opened registration for the program, they say 5,000 elementary students have already signed up. They’re anticipating 20,000 total students to sign up this summer. That’s about 1 in 5 kids.

ABC Action News checked around and found every district in our area plans to enhance learning this summer. All of them are offering free programs and many are expanding parents’ options because of the pandemic.

District leaders say even if you can’t commit to a summer learning program, it’s crucial that you spend time reading, doing math problems or even taking field educational trips with your kids this summer.

Pinellas County’s Summer Bridge Program will be held in person from June 21-July 15. The district will also have art, music and STEM camps.

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In Hillsborough County, summer learning programs have also been expanded because of the pandemic.

Polk County’s program will target students in grades 2, 3 and 4 and a course and grade recovery program for grades 6-12.

Sarasota County’s program is still in the works of being finalized but parents will be notified of the academic summer programs once details are made concrete.

Highlands County plans to target kindergarten, first, second and third-grade students who need extra help academically. Their elementary summer camps will run June 2-30.

In Hernando County, there will be a third-grade reading camp this summer and a second and fourth-grade program for students who need more help. There will also be a high school credit recovery camp. They’re also still working to finalize plans for a middle school summer program.