With most students back on campus full time, Denair begins to map out summer school plans

Even as the excitement associated with the first full week of in-person classes in more than a year still was being celebrated Thursday night, Denair Unified School District officials already were thinking about ways to enhance and expand summer school offerings to provide the most help to students.

Typically, summer school has been offered only to high school students who struggled with a particular class and needed to take it again to earn the required credits toward their diploma. Or, it has been a chance for other teens to receive extra help at a less stressful time. 

Those situations will still exist this summer, Superintendent Terry Metzger told board members Thursday. But there are other, equally important reasons that she expects more students of all ages to sign up for summer school after spending much of the past 13 months learning at home via computer because of the pandemic.

“We need to do whatever we can to get kids back on track,” Metzger said. “We also want the kids to have a little fun.”

Summer school will begin June 7 – just a week after the current school year ends – and run through July 2. The full list of classes still is being finalized and teachers are being hired. Registration is expected to open in early May.

Metzger expects about 160 of Denair’s 480 high school students to participate in summer school, significantly more than the 119 who enrolled in 2019. The credit recovery classes will be a combination of in-person instruction and online coursework.

For students of all ages, many of the classes will be taught “camp style” and focus on fun, Metzger said. Examples might be one-week classes focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics like drones, robotics or coding; sports and cheerleading camps; or farm-to-fork courses involving gardening or cooking.

The superintendent said it is vital that students and staff “reconnect to school, learning and each other,” and that a focused summer school program can achieve that. She also said tending to everyone’s mental health and well-being after the stress of the past year is important, citing the need to “rest, recuperate and regenerate.”

“After a year of mostly distance learning, we knew we needed something in the summer to bridge the gap,” Metzger said.

Likely summer school grade-span groupings are K-2, 3-5, 6-8, high school and 7-12 (for sports, band and ag).

Metzger also updated trustees on how the first week of in-person classes have gone. About 85% of Denair’s students returned to campus Monday, with the rest remaining on distance learning.

She said that the revised guidelines issued two weeks ago by the Center for Disease Control allowing desks to be spaced 3 feet apart – instead of 6 feet – made all the difference for the district being able to accommodate all the students who wanted to return.

Still, Metzger cautioned that staff and students must remain vigilant to follow health safety rules, especially with COVID still such a presence in Stanislaus County. The county has the ninth-highest infection rate and eighth-highest death rate of the state’s 58 counties.

“It’s important to note that conditions in our county, while they are improving, they are not improving as much as other areas and not as quickly as we had hoped,” Metzger said.

About half of Denair’s 200 employees have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. There have been no instances of the virus having been spread on any of the district’s campuses.

“There are six weeks of school left,” Metzger said. “We’re focusing on making that a great experience for students and staff.”

In other action Thursday, trustees:

  • Accepted a $20,000 grant from the state Farm-to-Fork program that will be used at Denair High School to help students grow fruits and vegetables and raise animals that will be incorporated into the district’s food program.
  • Unanimously approved a proposal to hire a full-time mental health clinician. The district will use some of its COVID relief money to equally split the annual $103,698 cost with the Legacy Health Endowment in Turlock for the next three years. The district’s current mental health clinician is part of an arrangement with Sierra Vista Family Services of Modesto.
  • Designated May 3-7 as National Teacher Appreciation Week and May 17-21 as Week of Classified School Employee.
  • Voted unanimously to accept the independent financial audit for the 2019-20 school year, which was delayed by the pandemic. The auditors found all financial statements to be in good order.
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