Lake Oswego High School Sophomore Class President Alex Aghdaei is cautiously optimistic but leery of extra classes being forced on students.
“Summer learning opportunities are great as long as they are opportunities,” he said.
Students across Oregon have fallen behind in their classes and suffered emotionally from a year of distance learning. This equity-focused package would give school districts additional money to help heal the academic and social wounds, especially for the youngest learners.
Aghdaei, who has a love for data science, has been surveying his classmates this year. He said many of his classmates in the Portland suburb are struggling in distance learning and would welcome credit recovery options.
“There is a real opportunity here to offer classes they wouldn’t normally take,” he said.
But many students are stressed out with the pandemic’s added pressures, he said, and would be “a hard no” for a fifth semester, as some are calling it.
Gov. Kate Brown, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek jointly support a plan that goes deeper and broader than just extra classes. They envision $250 million in state money to provide enrichment activities, academic support, child care and early learning programs.
The package offers five specific investments:
$90 million for school districts and their partner organizations to create enrichment activities for all K-8 students;
$72 million for school districts to help high school students recover credits;
$40 million for community organizations to create summer activities;
$30 million for Title I schools to provide wraparound child care services for K-8 students attending summer programs;
$13 million for Early Learning Division grantees to continue providing services this summer.
The remaining $5 million would go to administrative costs. The package would be combined with an additional $75 million in federal matching funds for school districts and money from the Employment-Related Day Care Program.
School district funding would be based on the school revenues formula, with additional weighting for poverty and other factors. The package includes an emphasis on helping historically underserved communities.
Phoenix-Talent School District Superintendent Brent Barry said he had already been considering expanding summer learning opportunities to all students who wanted them.
“I didn’t know how we were going to fund it,” Barry said. “When I saw this announcement, I was extremely grateful.”
Barry said expanded summer opportunities are a trend around the state, and the pandemic’s learning disruptions have driven home the importance of engagement and student connections. He said the extra money would reduce the anxiety of school leaders trying to figure out how to help their students recover.
Phoenix-Talent’s students faced the additional academic and emotional trauma of the September wildfires. The Almeda fire south of Medford destroyed the homes of roughly a third of the students and closed schools for more than two weeks.
Barry said the child care supports will be equally welcome as the economy starts to open up again and parents go back to work.
“We look to provide as much opportunity as possible,” he said. “We hope to create an environment where there is a lot of learning and a lot of social and emotional activities as well.”