LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – While COVID-19 thwarted plans for Jefferson County Public Schools to double the size of its Summer Backpack League in its second year, students will be able to participate in hundreds of weeklong programs virtually starting Monday.
JCPS launched its Summer League program for students entering first through 12th grades with 120 digital “adventures” crafted by teachers, who have not taught in their classrooms since March 13 as the district followed Gov. Andy Beshear’s recommendation to close in hopes of limiting the spread of COVID-19.
After three weeks, another 120 adventures will be made available in Google Classroom for students to complete before the program ends July 31.
All teachers who have designed adventures for the program will have virtual office hours two to three times per week to help students with their work, said Staci Eddleman, director of federal and state programs for JCPS.
“We have adventures that are tailored for particular grade bands, so a 10th-grade student won’t be looking at the same adventure as that a third-grade student may be,” she said.
The Summer Backpack League was only offered to rising third- through sixth-grade students in its first year.
“One of the things we also wanted to do was be sure to expand this programming for all grade levels,” Eddleman said.
While the summer program dropped the “backpack” from its name, students can save artifacts that they’ve completed during the weeklong courses to store in their digital learning backpacks, which they can use later as evidence of their readiness to advance during key transition points of fifth, eighth and 12th grades.
The Summer Backpack League was created in part to help students in reading and math. While the Summer League is open to every student, a separate program called EMPOWER will directly target more than 3,000 students for reading and math interventions beginning July 6, Eddleman said.
So far, more than 3,300 students have registered. Eddleman expects that number to grow to around 3,500 as the four-week program launches.
Teachers will be assigned caseloads of up to 12 students, who will use an adaptive computer program that changes content based on their progress, she said. Teachers and students will have personal interactions at least three times a week, she said.
“Kids lost a lot by missing out on the last part of the school year, and we know there are going to be learning gaps for all students that we have to address when the new school year begins, but we wanted to look at some students who we wanted them to have the extra opportunity to work on reading and math with a teacher,” Eddleman said.
The budget for Summer Leauge and EMPOWER is about $1.8 million, JCPS spokesman Mark Hebert said.
The lack of digital resources that many families in Jefferson County face “is always a concern,” she said.
To help bridge that digital divide, JCPS allowed those who received Chromebooks and T-Mobile hotspots with unlimited data to keep those tools during the summer. The district is also providing those resources to students who have enrolled in EMPOWER and don’t have a computer or internet access at home, Eddleman said.
As an added incentive, JCPS is offering rewards for students who regularly participate in its summer programming through a partnership with Evolve502 and grant funding the nonprofit received from the One Louisville: COVID-19 Response Fund, she said.
Students will be able to generate points by participating in and completing summer programs through JCPS, Louisville Free Public Library’s reading program and the 2020 Virtual Cultural Pass.
The top 20 earners in each grade level will get prizes based on how many points they’ve accumulated. Students who finish first, second and third in their grades will earn prizes worth $500; those who finish in fourth through 10th places will get rewards worth $250; and students who land in 11th through 20th place in their grades will receive prizes worth $100, Eddleman said.
“We’re also going to do some weekly drawings,” she said. “We have some smaller prizes, so all the kids who participate in a given week, we’ll do a drawing at the end of the week.”
To sign up for Summer League and other programs offered by the district, visit the JCPS website here.
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