FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – It’s finally over.
This school year has been a rollercoaster ride for teachers, students and parents — and as of Wednesday, school is out in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
“This was one of the most difficult years that we have experienced,” Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said.
The prior school year pretty much ended abruptly when the COVID-19 pandemic started taking hold. Students and teachers had to quickly adapt to online learning.
That’s when administrators started to notice the beginning of what is now being called the COVID gap, academic deficiencies the result of online learning and related technical challenges.
As we approached the fall, public school districts grappled with what to do.
Despite COVID-19 concerns, eventually, parents got the option to send their children back into the physical classroom.
That was shortly followed by virus outbreaks at schools and students forced to quarantine.
“For the first half of school I was mostly online, so I wasn’t very motivated to do anything because I was just at home,” iPrep Academy freshman Christopher Hasbun acknowledged.
Now, summer school in both districts becomes a top priority, as a way to help students who have fallen behind.
Miami-Dade plans to spend close to $50 million on summer-school programs.
“In excess of 62,000 students already committed to summer activities,” Carvalho said. “It is to mitigate the academic regression. It is to make up for time lost.”
Broward County says it is concerned with the progress of about 40% of its students, so they too expect higher than normal attendance for summer instruction.
“Typically we have 10,000 to 12,000 students, mostly third-graders and students with disabilities who attend,” Broward Schools Chief Academic Officer Daniel Gohl said. “We are now a little over 40,000 students who have indicated they’re interested in coming.”
Nationally, the U.S. Education Department said it is too early to know how many students will sign up. But the number is all but certain to exceed the estimated 3.3 million who went to mandatory or optional summer school in 2019, before the pandemic.
Under the most recent federal pandemic relief package, the Biden administration is requiring states to devote some of the billions of dollars to summer programs.
As for next fall, the districts in Broward and Miami-Dade expect a return to normal. Miami-Dade says in the fall, mask-wearing in school will be optional.
READ MORE: Another COVID side effect: Many kids head to summer school
Copyright 2021 by WPLG Local10.com – All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.