Northern school boards adjusting to increased demand for summer classes

Several school boards in northeastern Ontario are reporting an uptick in the number of students enrolling in summer classes.

Some students taking summer classes to catch up on credits

Students with backpacks walking outside.
School boards in northern Ontario are expecting an increased demand for summer course offerings. (Michael Sohn/The Associated Press)

Several school boards in northeastern Ontario are reporting an uptick in the number of students enrolling in summer classes.

It represents a changing trend in how kids prepare for upcoming school years, and suggests parents are doing everything they can to ensure kids stay ahead – or at least on par– with the competition.

That's following two years of interrupted learning during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sudbury Catholic District School Board spokesperson Erin Kendall said in an email to CBC News that the board had around 446 summer students in 2021, and has 596 this yeara 33 per cent increase.

Board superintendent Rossella Bagnato said the region's largest separate school board serves up a variety of offerings to accommodate interested students. 

That includes transitional programs to get younger students accustomed to classroom settings, literacy programs, and an increasingly popular hands-on course geared toward Indigenous students.

"We started with three or four students," Bagnato said. " We are now up to 20 and if we get two or three tomorrow, we are not going to turn them away."

The curriculum covers Indigenous teachings, as well as developing an understanding of the social, cultural and political developments of First Nations.

"It's not in a classroom," Bagnato said. "It's a land-based opportunity." 

Needed credits

But what's causing the increased demand?

Bagnato said it's a combination of things, but the pandemic certainly affected many students. High schoolers, for example, need to complete 30 credits to earn their diploma.

And if they came up short during the online learning years, they would need to catch up quickly to graduate with their classmates.

"It does have a lot to do with credit recovery and giving students those credits that they need," Bagnato said. "So if they're able to take an e-learning course or they are able to take co-op, and if they're able to do that, then they would sign up very quickly for it."

The summer co-op program has been in such demand, Bagnato said, the board had to run a second section.

"We want you to be successful and have what you need," she said. "So I think that is part of the attraction as well."

The province sets funds for boards to run summer programs, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said.

"Our government has increased investments by over $683 million dollars to get students back on track following two years of disruption – making it the single largest investment in learning recovery, tutoring supports, summer learning, mental health and special education in Ontario history," the ministry's Grace Lee said in an email to CBC News.

"We are investing $176 million to expand access to free school-based tutoring in small groups led by teachers after school, during school, on weekends, online and over the summer to ensure that students can be prepared for the start of the next school year."

"We are committed to the success of our students and that starts with them being back in the classroom, on time, with the full school experience that includes extracurricular activities."

Lesleigh Dye is the director of education for the District School Board Ontario North East. (Twitter- @LesleighDye)

Lesleigh Dye, director of education for District School Board Ontario North East, which covers an area from Hearst to Temagami, said the idea of summer school has come a long way from being a punishment for failing a course, transforming into an opportunity for kids to get ahead.

"This is how it's different. It's not something that we're doing to children or we're doing to families," Dye said. "This is something that we're doing with them."

Dye said the board expects around 300 students – from kindergarten to Grade 12 – to enrol at various locations this summer.

"I think that's one of the priorities for parents is they want to make that transition from the home to school the least stressful as possible," Dye said.

"Children are very excited to go. So, you know, if a couple of trips to the school and taking part in some programs is going to help, then let's let's do it." 


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