Harrisonburg schools create summer program and space for outdoor classrooms

Harrisonburg schools create summer program and space for outdoor classrooms
Outdoor classroom (Source: WHSV)

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - As the first semester for Harrisonburg City Public Schools ends later this month, the school division has already started working on a new program to help students this summer.

At the end of this school year, families can voluntarily enroll their students in grades K-8 into a summer remediation program to help some students get caught back up on their studies.

Division superintendent Dr. Michael Richards said the summer courses will be like a summer camp program and will go on for several weeks throughout the summer to help give more opportunities for families who may travel.

Richards said this program is different than the regular summer school program in that it’s not required for any students and that it’s free of charge.

Teachers will also not be required to take part in the program and the school division is looking to hire extra staff.

With a little more than 15% of the division’s students physically back in the classroom this semester, Richards said the summer program will rely on outdoor classroom spaces at each school.

“You know, even with a vaccine we can’t exactly predict where we’re going to be in the trajectory of the pandemic,” Richards said. " We want to be able to promise this summer program now and so in order to that we can say it’s going to be outdoors.”

Schools like Spotswood Elementary School have already started creating their outdoor classrooms and will use the spaces this spring to allow more students back at school buildings.

“All the principals are working with teams on their campuses to use the unique situation of their campus to create outdoor learning spaces,” Richards said.

Richards said the idea of outdoor classrooms has been around for some time but the coronavirus pandemic has sped up the process. He also said that the number of people allowed in a school building will not increase until after the Virginia Department of Health designates Harrisonburg as a yellow area.

More information on outdoor classrooms and the summer program will be presented at Tuesday night’s school board meeting at 7 p.m.

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