In Medford, summer school expands after vulnerable students struggle with distance learning

 For Jana Langhoff and her son Tyler, summer days don’t look drastically different from when school was in session.

Tyler, who finished his first-grade year at home like the rest of his Howard Elementary School classmates amid Oregon’s statewide school closure, didn’t thrive while learning from a distance. And the catch-up instruction his school is offering him this summer won’t work much better, since his teacher still must connect with him over a computer instead of face-to-face.

Tyler, 6, had been settling into a routine just before the COVID-19 pandemicbut the ensuing restrictions disrupted that rhythm. If you ask his mother, she’ll tell you Minecraft has been a more effective teaching tool than anything his school offered him.

“I think it’s just not having the teacher there,” Jana Langhoff said. “Getting back in the classroom would be great. I know he’s falling behind.”

It’s that lack of connection that makes online summer school less appealing to the Langhoffs and to some older students as wellCiting the health risks of coronavirus, Howard Elementary’s leadership decided on an online-only model for its first summer school, available to students who need extra help preparing for the next school year.

Students of all ages, from kindergarten through high school, saw their quality of education lessened and academic trajectories slowed this spring, with students in poverty and without stable housing most likely to have lost ground.

But one group of Medford-area students is getting a new palette of summer learning opportunities this year, a positive result of the school closure. The school district’s annual migrant summer school is offering career and technical courses for the first time.

Though COVID-19 precautions continue to affect delivery methods, the summer offerings in Southern Oregon’s largest school district are further-reaching than they’ve ever been, with expanded programming to support students spanning the K-12 system. Multiple schools launched virtual programs to remedy learning loss this summer.

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