PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Summer break may be in full swing, but right now, more than 16,000 students in Pinellas County are trading part of their summer vacation for extra classroom time.
The idea is to keep kids learning and engaged so that they’re ready for the next school year.
Education leaders say by the time a student reaches middle school, if they don’t spend any time learning over the summer months, they lose the equivalent of two years of education.
Principal of Belleair Elementary School Kelly Austin said the district’s Summer Bridge program is more essential than ever.
“We did see a covid slide and when you add the summer slide on top of it, it can be detrimental to a student’s academic achievement," she said. "This is just one more thing we are doing in Pinellas County to accelerate those students and make sure they are successful."
Teachers typically have to spend the first three to four weeks of the school year just catching up.
Belleair Elementary School Summer Bridge 2nd grade teacher Erin DeLong said it’s a struggle she faces every fall.
“We almost just predict that’s what the first few weeks will be like seeing how much they’ve forgotten, where they are,” she said.
Yet, programs like Summer Bridge are making a big difference. Education leaders say if a parent isn’t able to send their student to school this summer, there are a few things you can do to keep them on track: Reading is a big one. You can also encourage your student to write letters to a friend or grandparent and most importantly keep it fun.
“Have them make the grocery list. When you go to the store you can have them estimate how much groceries will cost," Austin said. "There are all kinds of things we can do to help our students’ achievement."
She added that kids are never too old for parents to read to them, which can help enhance a student’s vocabulary and understanding of what they’re reading.
Summer Bridge runs until June 30 in Pinellas County and families can still sign up online until 5:30PM June 9. After that, families can reach out to schools for assistance with summer bridge registration. For more information, click here.
Second grader Jelaia Holloway told ABC Action News she hopes by taking part in the Summer Bridge program, she will move closer to her ultimate goals: Attending Harvard University and becoming a police officer and nurse at the same time.
Pinellas County has seen their Summer Bridge program grow. Approximately 1,000 more students are attending the program in 2022 versus 2021. 12,500 of those students are in elementary school. Free transportation and meals (breakfast and lunch) are available to qualifying elementary and middle school students in the program.
Students with excellent attendance in Summer Bridge will receive tickets to one of 8 art venues of their choice.
For more information about Summer Bridge, click here.