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To Keep Summer School Fresh, JCPS Turns To Video Games For Inspiration

summer school
Courtesy of JCPS
JCPS is holding summer school virtually this year, amid the pandemic.

Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) will be holding summer school online this summer, to help students catch up academically while abiding by CDC health and safety guidelines during the pandemic.

Students who were provided Chromebooks and WiFi hot spots during nontraditional instruction (NTI) will be allowed to keep them for the summer.

District officials are worried many students may be sick of online learning, having just finished the school year in NTI. JCPS Chief Academic Officer Carmen Coleman said even though summer learning continues online, the district knew it had to be different than NTI, so they designed an online program that resembles a video game.

"We're really trying to think about the appeal of digital gaming, and how can we give this that same appeal," Coleman said in a call with reporters Wednesday.

"We're trying to design this in a way so that kids would do it on their own because it's fun," she said.

The six-week program called Summer League is for students in grades 1-12 who are behind academically, or who the district knows need more support over the summer. It's usually held in-person. Coleman said this year, the program will be a series of one-week "adventures" that mimic video games. Students will be able to create their own avatars, there will be a "leaderboard," and students will compete for points.

The district will be reaching out to families of students who are selected for Summer League via email. The program runs Jun. 22-Jul. 31.

Before the pandemic, the district was planning to expand League from last year's 1,000 students to 2,000 students this year. Coleman said the number of students who can participate will depend on the number of teachers who offer to work. So far, she said 600 JCPS teachers have expressed interest.

Other Summer Learning Opportunities

In addition to Summer League, the district is creating several other summer learning opportunities that will be open to all students -- no registration required and free of charge, beginning Jun. 15.

The "Literacy &" camp in mid-June is a one-week online program for students in third, fourth or fifth grade. The camps focus on building math and reading skills through fun activities and themes. This year's themes include yoga, chess, karate and hip hop.

Students in grades 6 and up can participate in the week-long "AMPED" Audio Production Program. In this program, students get one hour a day of literacy instruction and an hour of instruction in audio production, beat-making and sound design. JCPS Chief Equity Officer John Marshall said the books students will be reading will be comics or graphic novels. Middle school students will read Marvel's "Black Panther," and high school students will read "Drowned City," which is about New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

You can find more information here, beginning Jun. 1.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.