Alexandria, VA

After some initial confusion on whether students would be required to participate in the upcoming summer school program, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) clarified in a School Board meeting last Friday that the summer learning program is “expected but not mandatory.”

School officials said they hoped to clear the air and emphasize the flexibility of the program. Gerald Mann, executive director of elementary and secondary instruction, said families traveling over the summer or students who tend to not wake up in the morning over summer can still be accommodated in the new schedule.

“The summer program lets people do this wherever they like,” Mann said. “We’ve tried to make one-stop-shop. If you [to participate] later on do not want to start at 9 a.m., you can start at 9 p.m. All videos will be recorded.”

Mann said the emphasis on choice means families will be able to choose what types of classes students can opt-out of. The schools will also be offering to mail learning kits to homes with materials like science experiments of books.

A summer education program that would be available to all students has been a goal under Superintendent Gregory Hutchings a few years, Mann said, but the pandemic has finally given the schools the opportunity to try to implement that.

Terri Mozingo, chief academic officer for ACPS, said the goal is to get students who have been out of school for months even before summer started to be ready to move to the next grade level.

“[The goal is] to engage, to enrich, and prepare the students,” said Mozingo. “We’re trying to mitigate and minimize summer loss and getting students to grade-level content.”

So far, 495 families have opted out of the program. While the School Board agreed with the goals of the program, there were still some lingering concerns about the implementation.

“Unless people are digging into the Q&A, I’m sure there are a lot of questions out there,” said School Board member Michelle Rief. “At the beginning of most years, families receive a letter, but this process is different. I’m concerned if there’s going to be individual, tailored outreach.”

Hutchings said the idea behind making the default an opt-in was making sure no families that wanted to join were left out and figured that the new system would be easier to manage. Mann added that having students be automatically included would help give a better idea of how many students would be in classes.

Hutchings acknowledged that the rollout of the program could have been done better and that one of the lessons learned is that if school staff need more time to put the program together they should tell the community.

Mann also noted that the new summer program includes no longer charging for course credit recovery for students.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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