At Prairie Winds Middle School, this summer’s students are dabbling in architecture before choosing another potential career path to explore.
They design mini-houses and do other extra activities that go beyond a typical summer school experience.
Other summer programs in the Mankato area are also trying new approaches as they welcome more students this year in the wake of the pandemic.
Attendance is up significantly and has doubled in some cases at Mankato area public schools, St. Peter’s public schools and Loyola Catholic School.
Like any other year, many attendees received targeted invitations based on teacher recommendations, test scores, and course failures. But this year, some school programs were also opened to any family who wanted a little more time in school after a second year of pandemic disruptions.
Additional federal funding allows schools not only to provide essential services to all of these students, but also to provide additional support and enrichment.
Summer students have additional support which includes more teachers and access to social workers and counselors. And students learn more than math and reading.
Officials of some summer programs for younger students say the goal is not to catch up but to give students a good start to the year ahead.
“We are using an accelerating mindset instead of remediation,” said principal Scot Johnson, who oversees the elementary summer school for public schools in the Mankato area.
“We are building the scaffolding for what they will need to be successful in the coming year,” said Dakota Meadows deputy manager Kai Sill.
At Prairie Winds and Dakota Meadows, the session is no longer called “summer school”. The pupils attend the “summer enrichment”.
In addition to traditional reading and math classes, students at Dakota Meadows have art and technology classes. At Prairie Winds, students take physical education and career exploration classes.
Summer enrichment in college this year is four hours a day, four days a week for five weeks.
Throughout each multifaceted morning, his supervisors say that students engage in more hands-on and collaborative learning activities.
Prairie Winds students design interiors and exteriors of tiny homes and write brochures on the benefits of living in a small space. Along the way, they learn skills in language arts, including compelling writing and math concepts such as area and perimeter.
New seventh grader Natalie Boerger said persuasive writing is the most difficult for her. She’s still thinking, but plans to write about the cost of utilities for small houses and how easily the houses can be moved.
Natalie would still prefer to have all of her days open to watch movies, play outside and have fun in the summer. But school only in the morning isn’t that bad, she said. Physical education class is her favorite part of her mornings.
In the coming weeks, Deputy Principal Aaron Hyer said, students will choose a career that interests them from a list of options. They will spend part of their morning learning more about their potential future profession and the skills they will need to acquire before they are ready for their first job.
There are more than 80 students at Prairie Winds this summer and nearly 80 at Dakota Meadows – about double a typical summer at both schools, the vice-principals said.
At St. Peter Middle School, summer school coordinator Ytive Prafke said a week has been added to the traditional summer school program along with an optional enrichment program. Middle school students may choose to stay in the afternoon for additional hands-on activities such as sewing, archery, landscaping, and creating stained glass art.
In recent years, elementary summer school students in public schools in the Mankato region have received additional support in reading or math. This summer, more students are gaining more experience over a longer period of time.
Each student receives additional instruction in reading and math, Johnson said. One week has been added to the regular summer school calendar and one hour has been added to each day. This summer, elementary school students participate five hours a day, four days a week for five weeks.
Rosa Parks and Monroe Elementary Schools serve elementary school students from across the district in the summer.
Nearly 600 students have registered to attend, Johnson said, up from 450 to 500 in a typical summer.
The St. Peter’s Elementary Summer School Program typically has a class of about 15 students per grade level. This year, it has been extended to two classes for most years and to three classes for the first year, Prafke said.
Like college, Saint-Pierre’s elementary calendar has also been extended from four to five weeks.
Loyola Catholic School is trying a new one-on-one summer opportunity for its elementary students. Instead of daily lessons, teachers work one-on-one with students for half an hour twice a week. All students were asked to register for extra help or boost in reading, math, or both.
“It’s really focused and individualized teaching,” said Becky Gerdes, Dean of Academics at Loyola.
Most families pay $ 25 for each session, with scholarships available. More than 50 students from Loyola, or almost a quarter of primary school students, participate.
High school students in the region continue to work at their own pace to complete required courses.
The Mankato Area Learning Center serves students in public schools in the Mankato area as well as several other surrounding smaller districts and private schools in the area.
St. Peter’s public schools also have their own secondary learning center where nearly 150 students have already completed their summer studies.
The Mankato Area Learning Center has moved from its usual home at Lincoln Community Center to the larger East High School to accommodate approximately 500 summer students. That’s almost double the norm, said manager Brian Hansen.
Students catch up on online lessons, but they do it in person with a teacher in each class to help them out whenever they get stuck, Hansen said.
An online assessment and course program allows students to focus only on standards they have not mastered during the school year.
“We meet the students where they are,” said Hansen.
The high school summer program began in mid-June and continues until the end of July. Students have individualized schedules, Hansen said. Some students need all this time while others finish in a few days.
For the first time this year, the summer programs of public schools in the Mankato area have counselors, psychologists and / or social workers on site to support students.
They individually assist students with mental health needs and connect them with school and community resources.
In elementary programs, counselors give students surveys on how they coped with the pandemic. In elementary and middle schools, counselors also visit classrooms to teach classes on socio-emotional development.
In St. Peter’s, counselors were also available for the high school program and are on call to come in when needed for younger summer students.
Additional staff to support English language learners are also working in this year’s summer programs.
Also new this year, the bus is available to all Mankato summer students. Previously, transport was only provided for the youngest learners.
Plastic dividers still stand between desks, some students wear masks, and students don’t mingle much with other classes.
But pandemic safety protocols in place during the school year have been relaxed in summer schools.
School officials say they are following updated guidelines from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Students and staff who have not completed a COVID-19 vaccine are encouraged but not required to wear masks in school buildings. Everyone must wear masks on buses.
Free meals continue to be provided to summer school students as well as other children.
Mankato District offers daily take-out meals to 10 schools. The District of St. Peter provides daily meals for summer program students and weekly distributions to other families in schools and delivered to neighborhoods.
The federal government has funded free meals for all students throughout the pandemic and continues throughout the upcoming school year.