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Palmerton adds summer program for students who fell behind

A new summer school program aimed at helping students who fell behind during the COVID-19 pandemic will kick off this summer in Palmerton Area School District.

S.S. Palmer will host the program for the district’s elementary students from July 13-Aug. 5, while the junior high school will be the site for secondary students from July 6-Aug. 12.

Students, according to Palmerton Assistant to the Superintendent Jamie Schuler, will be recommended for the program by teachers, guidance counselors or building administrators.

Though the program is not mandatory even if a student is selected as a candidate, Palmerton officials hope a majority of them take advantage of the opportunity.

“This program is being developed to provide that extra level of support some students may benefit from,” Schuler said. “At the elementary level, the two main instructional focus areas will be English Language Arts and math. At the secondary level, there may be more mini sessions within some content areas. For example, in math you may be focusing on algebra, geometry, etc. Some of the programs at the high school may run for two or three weeks based on the availability of the instructors to provide that instruction.”

Both programs are scheduled to run from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Breakfast will be provided and a bagged lunch will be given to students to take home. Transportation details will be finalized after a final student count is developed. The cost of the program, including transportation, materials and teacher stipends, would be covered by one of the COVID-19 related grants coming to the district.

“This is not meant as a credit recovery plan,” Schuler said when discussing the elementary program. “If there is a recommendation to retain a student at the same grade level next year, participation in this program won’t override that. For high school students, the candidates for this would be those who passed a course, but really may have struggled to do so.”

There is a separate credit recovery program offered for high school students.

Palmerton will also offer COVID-19 compensatory services and an extended school year program to special education students.

“The COVID compensatory services are for a chance for students to address a skill loss or lack of progress as a result of being in an alternative instruction model during the pandemic,” Schuler said. “That takes place at the end of June. The extended school year program allows our special education students to continue receiving instruction over the summer. There is also an addition to the SHINE program this year where there will be a summer camp offering for those students already enrolled in SHINE. That will take place at the end of June and beginning of July.”

Dropping grades

Palmerton has seen a fluctuation in the number of failing grades throughout the school year, though the projection is final marking period grades will be some of the best yet this academic year. All students had the option to return to in-person instruction five days a week before the start of the final marking period.

At the high school, the number of failing grades has consistently trended down, going from 166 for the third marking period to 144 for the fifth marking period. Currently, there are 133 failing grades for the sixth and final marking period, but Dan Heaney, district technology director, said if the data trends hold true, that should go down to 101 by the end of the year.

“When we break down the statistics, we are looking at the total number of failing grades for a course in a marking period,” Heaney said. “That does not indicate the total number of students who are failing a course. In several cases, there are students failing more than one course.”

The junior high school had 107 failing grades in the second marking period, 123 in the third and currently has 80 for the fourth.

Towamensing Elementary had 16 failing grades in marking period two, 53 in the third and currently has 41 for the fourth.

S.S. Palmer had 123 failing grades in the second marking period, 139 for the third and currently has 96 for the fourth.

Parkside Education Center had eight failing grades in the second quarter, 13 in the third and currently has nine in the fourth.

“We’re starting some curriculum and instruction conversations for instructional transition plans in the 2021-22 school year,” Schuler said. “Those conversations will include the development of a K-12 assessment process and possible before and after school programs next school year to provide additional academic support.”