Blount County Schools doesn’t want anything to keep students from extra help catching up, so a week after this school year ends, buses will be back on the road for four-week summer learning camps.

“We knew that if we didn’t provide transportation, not all of our families would be able to participate,” said Jake Jones, assistant director of curriculum and instruction.

From May 24 to June 18, camps will be open from about 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at most elementary and middle schools.

Students from Friendsville, Middlesettlements and Union Grove elementaries will attend the session at Maryville Blount Elementary. With renovations scheduled at Eagleton Middle School, those students will go to Heritage Middle.

First priority will be students who score two or more grade levels below where they should be on English or math assessments. Principals will begin reaching out to families by phone, email and letter after this week’s spring break.

The principals then will target students one grade level behind, and if room is available, other students may attend.

Schools are planning for the possibility that a quarter or more of their enrollment could be in the summer camps.

While Tennessee’s public schools must offer summer programs to help make up for the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance is not mandatory.

Jones said they will work with families if students are unable to attend all five days or only certain weeks.

Schools are working to make the programs fun and inviting, planning celebrations for attendance and student progress, with themes such as a “Learning Luau” and “Summer of Awesomeness.”

Planning began at the beginning of the current school year, months before the state set the rules.

“We didn’t know if we were going to be able to staff it, because teachers are tired and they need a break, but teachers are very excited,” Jones said. “They want to be sure that they’re helping their students move forward academically.”

No more than 15 students are expected in each classroom.

Tutors at Friends

BCS isn’t waiting for summer to give students a boost, though.

This month 37 certified teachers began tutoring more than 200 students who attend the Friends Extended School Program at the district’s elementary schools.

Students attend one of four available hourlong sessions, from 3-4 p.m. or 4-5 p.m., either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday. Groups are no more than five students.

The tutoring will continue until May 14, the last full day of the school year.

BCS is covering the cost of the tutoring from the first round of federal COVID-19 relief funds.

School year STREAM

Just over a million dollars in state funding will pay for the summer camps that the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act requires.

In addition to teachers and transportation, the camps will provide free breakfast or a snack, and lunch every day. Physical activity will be part of the day, along with English language arts, math and intervention.

BCS has received conditional approval for several waivers from requirements from the state Department of Education.

All the camps will run four weeks. The elementary Summer Learning Camps were to be six weeks, and the middle school Learning Loss Bridge Camps four, under the state’s initial plan. BCS also is being allowed to offer slightly shorter camps, five hours a day instead of six.

Instead of a six-week STREAM Mini camp this summer, an hour a day four days a week, BCS plans to offer that programming in science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and math before and after school during the 2021-22 school year.

While the state did not include high schools in the summer learning legislation, BCS is expanding its usual summer school offerings for students to make up missing credits.

Instead offering the program only at the Samuel Everett School of Innovation campus this summer, that program will available for four weeks at SEIS, Heritage and William Blount high schools.

Education Reporter

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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