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How students can fight the 'summer slide' in the age of coronavirus
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Elementary content specialist for Hall County Schools Laney Park, Middle School Math Content Specialist Katie Miller and High School Math Content Specialist Cindy Grier use Zoom to talk to each other in April 2020. Photo Courtesy Laney Park

Summer time means more than just warm weather and trips to the beach for students, parents and educators. For those responsible for young learners, the two-and-a-half-monthlong hiatus from the classroom will always be associated with the dreaded “summer slide.”

“When folks talk about the summer slide, they talk about the fact that students don’t have access to academics over the summer time period,” said Matthew Alexander, Hall County’s elementary schools director of literacy and numeracy. “... Typically with reading, you’ll see children will fall a few levels over the summer. So that’s what we talk about with the summer slide. And the same is going to be true for writing and math skills as well.”

Alexander said that research varies on quite how much the summer slide affects students, but that young learners and those who come from poverty are always affected the most.

That effect will be exacerbated by the school from home finish to the year, particularly for impoverished students with less access to the technology required for at-home learning.

“It will certainly be much more significant than in years past,” Alexander said. “Even though as a district we did our very best to get the technology in the hands of every student, even if we could provide them with Chromebooks, some of them don’t have access to wireless networks at home. … Some of our students that are most at risk because of poverty and other factors, they will have regressed even further, yes.”

Alexander said it is impossible to know how much the increased summer slide will affect students longer term, but that Hall schools would be doing increased benchmark checks for literacy and numeracy to make sure students are not getting left behind.

And while young learners will certainly suffer from the unusual finish to the school year, there are measures parents can take to ensure students stay as sharp as possible over the summer months.

For one, parents from both Hall and Gainesville City schools can access free online resources that will keep young learners engaged throughout the remainder of June, July and early August. Hall schools offers a number of online courses for all grade levels through the parent toolbox on the HCSD website. Hall schools have also undergone a K-12 initiative to get books into the homes where they are needed. Alexander said the school district has already distributed over 1,700 books through the bus system to families that need them the most.

Gainesville City schools is providing weekly enrichment activities in language arts, math, science and social studies that will keep kids learning throughout summer.

Alexander also advised parents to try to turn everyday activities into learning opportunities for their kids. Things such as having kids read billboards out loud to them while driving in the car or asking them to calculate change when paying for things in cash is the best way to help young learners understand how the skills they learn in the classroom can help them out in real life.

Beyond that, simply sitting down and reading to your children — or having them read to you — was Alexander’s No. 1 piece of advice for parents hoping to help their kids get ahead in school.

“We often underestimate how important it is to read to our kids,” he said. “It’s always been a fundamental thing that kids who are read to at home, have a greater chance of being successful.”

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