Sun Prairie Area School District logo (2018)

The Sun Prairie Area School District has a long history of successful and well attended summer school sessions. Summer School 2020 looks a little different and it is still having an important impact on teaching, learning and planning.

Summer School Director Shelley Joan Weiss maintained the priority of SPASD’s Summer School Program is to engage students.

“The decision to hold Summer School via Distance Learning demonstrated the district’s commitment to supporting every student every day in a safe and healthy learning environment,” Weiss said.

Teachers and students are still actively engaging to enrich and enhance learning between school year sessions, but now virtually.

More than 1,300 students have signed up and logged in for a chance to use Seesaw, Google Classroom and Zoom to keep learning this summer. Without the confines of classroom and building walls, students are grouped by grade level and teachers are teaching students from one or two schools in the district with principals overseeing learning by grade level or grade band instead of a physical school.

This unique opportunity of going digital has afforded the chance for specialists such as English Language, Special Education, Student Services and Title Resource Teachers to collaborate with classroom teachers.

At the elementary level, students are using Seesaw and Zoom to connect with new and former classmates as well as teachers. It is an exciting way to keep students connected to school and learn about all academic areas with specific focus on literacy and math while teachers continue to develop their professional craft.

Teacher and student enthusiasm remains high for the summer learning opportunity.

“I am most excited to reconnect with students and provide them with a sense of normalcy this summer through reading and writing,” said Fifth grade teacher Allyson Williams said. “I’m excited to bring a sense of fun and creativity to their summer review work.”

This year there is an increased focus on students getting outside to learn, aligning with the SPASD’s mission of students learning inside and outside of the classroom.

The implications of summer school 2020 will likely have an impact on planning for teaching and learning in the fall of 2020.

With the recent recommendations by the Department of Public Instruction and uncertainty of COVID-19 always lingering, school districts are weighing many options when it comes to instruction this fall. The planning, implementation and assessing through family feedback will be another data point to guide instructional decisions in the coming months.

Summer school 2020 is demonstrating how nimble a large system can be while still providing high quality instruction for all learners.

When asked about the most exciting opportunity for summer school distance learning, kindergarten principal Lisa Hennessey said, “The best part of distance learning/teaching is being able to focus on essential standards and be aware of what specific skills students need at the end of a grade-level. This has allowed us to narrow in, while still providing access and opportunities to all standards.”

This unique opportunity allows for creative planning and all students to have equal access to curriculum. Sun Prairie Summer School 2020 is being stretched in new directions and demonstrates what summer school is all about.

Weiss reflected on the benefits of the process.

“One of the greatest benefits is that everyone — students, families, educators, administrators, and community members — are learning together,” Weiss said. “Learning never stopped for anyone and in the process of teaching students from a distance, the adults who surround the students learned with them.

“This new learning environment has also generated great creativity by everyone involved,” Weiss said. “I am continually amazed and impressed at the innovative approaches we are witnessing.

“I am equally impressed,” Weiss added, “with the powerful collaboration between educators, parents/guardians, outside resources, and students.”

The learning opportunity has created space for staff and students to have conversations about what teaching and learning can look like into the future.

The enrichment and enhancement of summer education as well as meaningful relationship development will allow students to continue growing and learning in the era of distance education.

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