Central Oregon Daily▶️ Crook Co. summer school seeks to fill educational gaps left by...

▶️ Crook Co. summer school seeks to fill educational gaps left by COVID

▶️ Crook Co. summer school seeks to fill educational gaps left by COVID

▶️ Crook Co. summer school seeks to fill educational gaps left by COVID

School’s out for the summer, but plenty of students are finding their way back to the classroom. 

Crook County School District’s Summer Blast program kicked off at Barnes Butte Elementary in Prineville Tuesday, with a goal to bring kids up to speed in crucial subjects. 

Feedback on the day one was positive. 

“I liked all the games that we’ve done so far, because usually at school we don’t do so many games,” said Adisynne Hensley, a first-time summer student. 

“My favorite part of the program is the science. I just love it too much,” said Titus Rodgers, a 7-year-old who attended last year as well. 

The STEM camp, focusing on math, science and reading, started last summer in response to COVID-19.

“Funding became available because of COVID to run significantly larger than normal summer school programs,” said the program’s principal, Jonny Oelkers. “Our superintendent came to us during our admin meeting and said ‘hey let’s do something awesome for the summer.’ With my background in science, I said let’s run a science camp at the elementary level. And I got put in charge of that.” 

Crook County Middle School and High School have had credit recovery programs during the summer before, but the educational setbacks caused by the pandemic meant the elementary students took priority. 

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This summer, some of the 530 kids attending the camp are still struggling to fill in those gaps. 

“When we had signups, the first month was open just for kids who were identified as high need kids who need to recover,” Oelkers said. “I’d say about 50% of our students are really students who are going to benefit most from what we’re doing, and are in that higher risk category. I’d say around 200 of our students are just great kids who want to do some more school, and don’t need the extra time but are happy to come and do more free-choice learning.”

Elizabeth Brewer, whose 7-year-old son is enrolled in the Summer Blast program, said her child took the pandemic changes well, but educational losses were inevitable. 

“I think through the past couple years with COVID and everything, I feel like elementary kids took it really well, being in masks, without masks,” she said. “But they do still struggle from that, they’re not getting as much one-on-one as they need.

“So having Summer Blast where they’re able to be with so many, and have extra education especially in areas that are fun, and putting their energy in places rather than just sitting at home is just great.” 

The Summer Blast program is completely full this summer and there is currently a waitlist. 

The program will be run this year and next on leftover COVID relief funds. Organizers believe the school board will make it a funding priority in the years following. 

“Our vision statement is that kids have an amazing STEM summer camp experience that allows them to make gains in reading, writing and math, so that’s the goal,” Oelkers said. “They have a good time, have a lot of fun, make some friends, and improve their academic skills.” 

“You do a lot of projects that are really fun,” Rodgers said. 

“It’s super fun and it’s nothing like school at all,” Hensley added. 

Summer Blast runs Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through July 28. 

Crook County Middle School’s Summer Series runs July 5-28 from 8:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays through Thursdays. 

Crook County High School’s Summer Series runs July 5-Aug 4 from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays through Thursdays as well. 

For more information, visit the Summer School page on the Crook County School District website

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