AUSTIN, Texas - School districts in the Austin metro area are reporting a spike in summer school enrollment.
Summer school for Leander ISD this year is at Vista Ridge High School and sign up for the first session wrapped up earlier this week. Hitting the books again includes some extra incentive for junior Jared Montecillo.
"Knowing next year is going to be all in person, motivates me a bit more, compared to last year, this whole year, has been all virtual," said Montecillo.
Summer school is still online for Jared and other Leander ISD high school students, but LISD middle school students are back in the classroom. Summer enrollment is up this year for VRHS assistant principal Bryon Ellison. "Some students haven't actually sat down in a seat in a classroom for 18 months," said Ellison.
According to Ellison and other school administrators, a lot of kids are back and not on vacation because of difficulties learning online during the COVID-19 shutdown.
"This in-person summer school experience for our middle school kids will give them an opportunity to be a student again in person which a lot of them haven't done in a long time," said Ellison.
The enrollment increase for Leander ISD is expected to be spread out over a two-phased summer school schedule.
Hays Consolidated ISD officials told FOX 7 the district nearly doubled its normal enrollment with about 2,500 students.
Georgetown ISD is holding all classes in person. GISD could not provide hard enrollment numbers but did issue the following information about its rolling summer schedule
- High school students have opportunities for credit recovery and any student who failed a class was invited to participate at no cost. Several sessions are offered.
- High school students have opportunities for end-of-course prep for those courses needed to graduate at no cost This program is designed to help students succeed on the test and pass.
- Credit accrual allows students to get ahead and earn credits over the summer that may allow for them to have more choice and freedom in their schedule during the school year or even graduate early. There is a $150 fee for this program.
- Middle school and elementary school students are invited to participate in the jump start program designed to help students get ready for the new year through more personalized learning options at no cost. These are generally half-day sessions with Science Mill bringing in STEM learning camps for the other half the day for interested families
Austin ISD is reporting an enrollment bump with elementary school but did not have enrollment numbers for high school and middle school.
Lake Travis ISD is seeing a slight increase in summer school enrollment, saying that 75 elementary school, 194 high school, and 50 middle school students have enrolled, along with 60 students in the extended school year or special services program.
Lake Travis ISD also added a kindergarten summer school to assist with kindergartners that were virtual. LTISD noted secondary numbers are up due to credit recovery efforts with high school and booster classes for middle school.
An enrollment increase is also expected in Round Rock. High school classes have started but summer school for elementary and middle school will not start until July for Round Rock ISD.
While the predicted enrollment increase came about, a statewide teacher shortage crisis apparently did not materialize. This year's summer school session is not expected to be a one-time student reboot. State and local administrators, as well as education advocates, believe regaining what the pandemic took will take much longer.
"It's not going to be fixed overnight, it's not even going to be fixed this summer. The task is so staggering. Teachers and students are already burnt out and they are going to need back up," said Mark Wiggins with the Association for Texas Professional Educators.
Federal stimulus money will help, but Wiggins pointed out the money is not permanent. "The key…is that this is one time funding, and these funds have to be used in a limited window otherwise they will go away," said Wiggins.
State lawmakers with Senate Bill 1 provided money to address growth, but Wiggins believes more funding for long-term recovery programs will be needed.
"And that's going to require, at the end of the day, more contact hours, and that can be done through a variety of means, it can be done through summer school, it can be done through extending the school day, the school hours, extending the school calendar, or increasing tutoring after school. Or some combination of all of that. And I do believe the tutoring piece is going to be very important to that," said Wiggins.
Wiggins predicts there will be calls for a statewide effort to recruit tutors. That would be a team to help provide extra one-on-one attention.