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Pinellas County Schools' Summer Bridge Program needs more teachers as enrollment climbs

Program expanding to help students catch up
Pinellas County Schools' Summer Bridge Program.png
Posted at 6:48 AM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 07:55:15-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County school leaders are stepping up their efforts to hire more teachers for their Summer Bridge Program.

It’s returning to face-to-face learning this year.

“We’re running an expanded Summer Bridge Program and trying to get more students to attend to make sure that their academic needs are met,” said Kevin Hendrick, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning for Pinellas County Schools.

The program offers activities in reading, math, and science to help prepare students for the next school year.

Enrollment is climbing. So far, 15,367 students have enrolled. Nearly 10,000 of those enrolled are elementary school students.

This year the district is running the program in more schools. It will be at every high school, every middle school, and about 60 of their elementary schools

Leaders are trying to lower the class size to 10-14 students so people feel more comfortable returning.

Smaller class sizes also allow for more individualized attention.

It also means the district needs more teachers this summer.

“We’ll be having about 1200 teachers work this summer and so far about 85% of our positions are filled,” said Hendrick.

For other summers, there have usually been around 700 to 800 teachers needed for the program.

It’s a four-week contract.

The district will be hiring teachers for the next three weeks, all the way up to the start of the program on June 21.

Officials say the program is really important this year to help students catch up.

“We’ve obviously been working to catch students up this school year and we’ve done a really good job with our parents’ help and our teachers’ but we want to keep that going this summer,” said Hendrick.

Some students have fallen behind due to online learning during the pandemic.

“In general we’ve seen that students in our lower grades have struggled a little bit more in mathematics than they have in the past. All students reading-wise typically are on pace with where they’ve been,” said Hendrick.

School officials say some students could have up to six months of learning loss from the past year.

"For students who maybe did not get some direct instruction last spring when they were out of school, and they were out all summer, you can expect that even in a regular year that sort of summer slide for students who are not getting support in the summer can be up to two months of learning loss. When you couple that with a couple months out of school, then the summer and maybe not coming back right away with direct instruction that maybe wasn’t as good on the computer,” said Hendrick.

Leaders are doing everything they can to encourage parents to sign students up.

“Our summer program has to be more fun, right? I mean if you want to come to school in the summer it’s got to be fun,” said Hendrick.

The district is offering free breakfast and lunch, and for the first time, this year transportation will be available.

So far there are 4,063 requests for transportation in grades K-8.

The Summer Bridge program is from June 21 to July 15, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Registration is now open and is filling up quickly.

You can sign up here.