After a year of disruptions for schools related to the coronavirus pandemic, the Unalaska school district is inviting all students to attend summer school this year.
The coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools last March, so students weren't able to attend the program last year. Since then, students have been transitioning between distance learning and intermittent in-person instruction.
At the school board meeting last week, High School Principal Jim Wilson said those interruptions have stunted the academic growth of many students.
"This year, we recognize that everyone experienced significant learning loss because of COVID," he said.
Normally, only the students in the lowest quartile are invited to attend summer school, according to Wilson. But because of the added learning loss and extra unused funding from last year's program, the district has the capacity to expand it this summer.
While school officials are not planning to add any special courses or programming, Superintendent John Conwell said that there will be about eight staff members helping with the summer program, roughly twice as many as previous years.
High school students are also invited to participate in "credit recovery," where they can receive guided instruction.
"That's for students who, for whatever reason, may have gotten a little behind in their credits that they need to graduate from high school," Conwell said. "So we set up an individualized program for them to earn either partial credit or full credit."
Staff and administration are also planning for a preschool summer program, but they don't yet know how many students they will have the capacity to enroll, Conwell added.
There's no clear data yet on how the pandemic has affected students' learning. And while students through 9th grade finished with state standardized testing called Performance Evaluation for Alaska Schools or PEAKS earlier this month, those results likely won't be available until at least August, according to Conwell.
He said students will take another assessment, the Measures of Academic Progress or MAP test, in May. That will offer immediate feedback and give administration a baseline assessment of how students are performing. Conwell said those test results will help the district address this year's learning losses.
About 110 students in kindergarten through 8th grade are currently signed up for Unalaska's summer school program, nearly half of the total student population in those grades. That is a much higher number than previous years, according to Principal Wilson.