By GRAYSON LEE MAXWELL
Rutherford County Schools
Rutherford County Schools is once again offering free Accelerated Learning Camps for students in grades K-8 to address any learning loss associated with the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Approximately 3,000 students are taking advantage of the summer program, which is being held at multiple elementary and middle schools throughout the county. The camps launched June 3 and wrap-up next week.
Below are examples of two students — Maddy, a fourth grader, and Antonio, rising a rising ninth grader — who share their experiences and thoughts about the program.
Maddy – Third Grade – Blackman Elementary
Third grader Maddy is cooling off in the classroom, preparing for the new school year by digging into fun activities in math, science and English. Of course, Maddy and her classmates are also getting to socialize with students and teachers from other schools.
“I love the teachers here,” Maddy explains. “I don’t know them. They’re from Blackman Elementary. But they’re cool.”
Ms. Clair, the teacher in charge of Maddy’s English class, has eight students under her wing. She stops and helps other students, checks in with Maddy and some others at her table. Kids are working in two big pods of four.
This is Maddy’s second year at summer camp. She’s an avid softball player and helps her family care for their rather impressive pack of English Bulldogs —almost 16 total dogs.
Maddy’s favorite part of the day?
Math. I’m good at it,” Maddy says. “Not English.”
Math is the next class, but first students must finish a mini essay on foxes. Ms. Claire explains how students have already learned about different foxes in literature — nonfiction and fiction alike.
“I do like reading the Babysitter’s Club books,” Maddy says. “But I’m not the type to read on weekends. I play travel softball. I’m busy.”
Last year she went to the second grade camp held at Blackman Elementary. This year, Brown’s Chapel Elementary is hosting her school’s summer camp.
Antonio – Eighth Grade – LaVergne Middle
Antonio is a rising ninth grader and will soon enter his first year of high school at Stewarts Creek. He is a bright young man with an interest in economics and running track. He has six siblings.
“I’m going to try to keep my grades up. As soon as my math grade started dropping, I was like, ‘I’ve got to go to summer school,’” Antonio says.
While the middle school summer camps cut out some of the extra activities — no noodle hockey — they make up for it by really pushing students to be ready for the academics ahead.
“I think it’s preparing me for next year,” Antonio says. “Now I’m retouching on some of the stuff I didn’t understand. Like when I go to high school, I know some of the stuff to get to where I need to be.”
Students at LaVergne Middle, one of the sites for summer camp, get to touch up their math, science, and English skills. But there are other items on the schedule — Students also partake in career and technical education classes, have social time, and get some physical activity.
During physical education, for example, Antonio and his classmates run relays, play games, and take a break from sitting in a classroom.
“Honestly, my favorite part of the day is PE,” Antonia says. “Yeah, because I can just run around and use my energy up. PE is always my favorite thing to do in school. I just like being outside any chance I get — I’m going to use it in the best way.”
The summer programs have proven popular with students, parents and teachers, said Elizabeth Davis, the Learning Loss Coordinator for Rutherford County Schools.
In her role, Davis helps oversee and utilize additional funding from the state and federal governments to assist school districts with programming that aids students who may have experienced learning loss during the pandemic.
The summer learning camps are one of the programs, but the school district has also offered free after-school tutoring. There are plans to continue and expand those programs during the new school year, Davis said.
“All students in Rutherford County have benefitted from these programs to help them accelerate their learning and rebound from the pandemic,” Davis said.