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Milwaukee Public Schools sees record enrollment for summer school programs

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MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Public Schools says a record number of students are registered to attend summer school.

As the traditional school year winds down, more MPS students than ever before are forgoing summer break to remain in the classroom.

“I believe they opted in because a lot of children have struggled this past year in school and they need the opportunity to be able to catch back up,” said Tycie Godsey.

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As the parent of an MPS sophomore, Godsey knows the challenges virtual learning brought for students stuck at home. MPS data shows more than 30 percent of high school students failed classes last fall under the virtual learning model, a sharp increase compared to 18.8 percent from the year prior.

“For some parents and some students, it did set them back a year, especially those ones who were already set back prior to this year, prior to COVID, so they had to do double catching up. So, summer school is a must,” she said.

In Wisconsin, summer school programs are completely voluntary for students. MPS said 5,800 students have registered for its June summer academy. That’s ten times more students than last year, and a major increase from pre-pandemic summers. In 2019, more than 2,000 students took part in summer school and even fewer the year before.

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“I think we want to make sure that our students are prepared for the next school year. So we altered our programming to make sure we could address those needs, so we’re working in an acceleration format this summer, so that we can prepare our students with the standards that they will face in the next school year,” said MPS’ extended learning opportunities manager Natalie Anderson.

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Given the extra demand this year, Anderson said the district plans to hold in-person summer classes at 21 schools. She said the extra time in the classroom offers students a chance for hands-on learning. For some students, it will be their first time back in the classroom since March of 2020.

“We know it’s going to be a change for some of our students,” Anderson said. “We have a lot of students that want to be in-person, on-site. We are making sure that our teachers are prepared, we’re having trainings to make sure they’re ready for that transition.”

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But just as important as catching up on lost learning, parents know their kids also missed out on much-needed social interactions with friends and classmates.

“Being at home for a whole year, not being able to socialize with their friends and their families and getting out here in the community, it hurt some of them,” Godsey said.

Students can attend MPS’ summer academy either in-person or virtually. The district says there are still spots open for June and July sessions. To find out more information, click here.

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