After year of virtual learning, free in-person summer classes for SF public school students

Achievement gaps existed long before the coronavirus pandemic, but with students thrust into online education, the learning losses were further compounded. 

As is the case in San Francisco, where public school students have fallen behind academically and emotionally, city officials said. Adding that mental health experts say students of all ages are dealing with severe social, emotional, and mental health issue such as depression and anxiety. 

A new Stanford study shows that second and third grade students are about 30% behind where they should be on their reading proficiency. Kids at lower achieving schools are even farther behind.

The education and wellness disparities only amplified in communities of color and low-income households. 

RELATEDSFUSD to resume in-person learning for some students April 12

San Francisco public schools are now challenged with making up for some of those learning losses to prevent students from falling even further behind, especially as the upcoming academic year nears. 

The city launched "Summer Together" in conjunction with the San Francisco Unified School District and local community organizations to offer a combination of free in-person learning and online instruction for public school students over the summer.

"We're setting up the infrastructure," Breed told KTVU. "We're getting ready because we want to help with that learning loss. The school district is working with us, so we are grateful because we will be working at some school sites."

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The program would be free for San Francisco Unified students, from elementary through high school. The initiative received a $25 million boost from Crankstart, a philanthropic organization.

Maria Su, executive director of San Francisco's Department of Children, Youth and Families, said the program will be a mix of play in the afternoon and education in the morning. 

"The core component of Summer Together is to ensure that all of our public school students have access to learning opportunities during the summertime," she said. 

While many think of summer camp for younger kids, the program will be an important resource for high school students who have limited time to make up any missed assignments. 

"Our high school students need that additional support," Su said. "Some of our seniors need those extra credits to make it to graduation and get their credits for high school."

Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the Recreation and Parks Department, said the program will also focus on fun, to give students the opportunity to resocialize after a year in isolation. 

"That is critical right along with that idea of learning loss," said Ginsburg." While many people think of play as fun and joyous, and it certainly is, play is also a very serious part of a child's development."

Summer Together starts June 14. Details are still being worked out, but organizers said there will be a virtual option as well for those families not yet ready to return to in-person interactions.