Fulton County Schools to require summer learning for some students

But parents can opt students out from summer school
Fulton County Schools released details of its 2022 summer program. CASEY SYKES/AJC FILE PHOTO

Fulton County Schools released details of its 2022 summer program. CASEY SYKES/AJC FILE PHOTO

Summer school will be required for some Fulton County students who are struggling academically, unless parents opt them out.

Fulton County Schools on Thursday announced in-person summer learning will run on a half-day schedule from June 8 to July 8.

New this year is an expectation that students in certain grades who fail critical Georgia Milestones assessments will participate. The assessments are state standardized tests administered in April and May.

Officials will give parents the choice to say no, but stress that declining could come with consequences, such as holding a child back to repeat a grade.

“Technically, the parents are going to be able to sign a waiver saying they are not going to send their child, with the understanding that at some point in time their child has to catch up academically or they are going to be retained,” said Superintendent Mike Looney at Thursday’s school board meeting.

“So, I would encourage our families to please consider adjusting their summer schedules,” he said. “The longer we wait to get them caught back up the more difficult it’s going to be.”

The district expanded its summer program last year in response to the disruption and learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 summer session served more than 20,000 students and cost over $7.5 million, said Gyimah Whitaker, deputy chief academic officer. Looney predicted this year will be even larger.

This summer’s attendance requirement will apply to third grade students whose state test scores are below grade level for reading. Fifth and eighth graders who fail the reading or math tests are expected to attend.

The requirement also extends to high school students who do not pass one of nine courses: 9th, 10th and 11th grade literature, algebra I and II, geometry, biology, environmental science and U.S. history.

Teachers also will identify students in other grades who will be encouraged to attend.

For struggling students who opt out of summer learning, teachers will continue to provide remediation next school year. But officials stressed that this summer is a good opportunity to catch up.

“Obviously, we’re bending over backwards to make sure that we’re offering and paying for the best approach to summer school that we can figure out,” said board member Katie Reeves. “Hopefully, everybody will take advantage of it, because again, this is not the kind of thing that we’ll be able to offer every summer.”

The district is budgeting $8.76 million in federal pandemic relief dollars for this summer’s program. To recruit staff, teachers who sign up will receive a $10 an hour pay increase, making the new rate $45 an hour.

The summer program will be offered at 37 sites. A virtual program will run from June 1 to July 13. Registration opens March 1.