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Kelso summer school to focus on basics and re-sparking love of learning

OMSI robotics class

OMSI outreach coordinator Brad Alston, right, assists students with programming an EV3 robot to sense boundaries and rotate when it comes in contact with another object during a Lego robotics class at Three Rivers Mall in April 2019.

This year, summer school in Kelso isn’t just about making up lost learning. It’s also focused on reminding students how fun school and learning can be after a turbulent year and a half.

“The focus on science, technology, engineering, art and math projects is to get them back to hands-on learning and get our kids off the Chromebooks,” said associate director of teaching and learning Lacey DeWeert. “There will still be plenty of time for students to work on remedial skills with their teachers, but we want to get them excited about school and learning again.”

For that reason, Kelso also is expanding its typical summer school offering, which is online-based credit recovery for high schoolers, to a K-12 effort. The expansion is supported by federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, which all schools are receiving due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many vaccinated people are eager to ditch their masks in the wake of the CDC's new mask recommendations, the guidelines are cause for concern, not celebration, for others.

“Especially now with so much concern about the learning loss in COVID, we’re going to get more in-person time in with summer school,” said district spokesperson Michele Nerland.

Nerland said the district is partnering with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria to give students fun but educational activities, such as boat and mini-windmill building, marble roller coaster construction and food chemistry.

The district will continue its partnership with Lower Columbia School Gardens to add a gardening component to summer school.

DeWeert said the maritime museum had partnered with individual teachers for projects in the past, which is how the district learned about its education outreach.

“We reached out this year and asked if they wanted to be part of our summer school program and they were all in,” she said. “I’m blown away by the maritime museum. They’re coming out here to do all the activities at two separate schools.”

So far, the elementary level has seen the most interest. More than 200 students have signed up, compared to 25 middle school students and 25 high schoolers.

While high school credit recovery used to be mainly online, DeWeert said it will be more classroom based this year to help make up ground lost to COVID-19.

Any student who signs up before May 21 is guaranteed a seat, DeWeert said. Applications are on the district website. The district will provide breakfast and lunch to students and offer busing.

At the elementary level, sessions will be held at Barnes and Wallace from July 19 to Aug. 5. Classes run from 9:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

Middle school classes will be at Coweeman from July 26 through Aug. 12, and high schooler have two session options, one from June 21 to July 16 and one from July 26 through Aug. 20.

Middle and high schoolers also have the choice of full-day or half-day sessions. Full-day sessions run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Morning session are from 9 a.m. to noon, and afternoon sessions are from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

“It’s still summer, and we want to accommodate everyone,” DeWeert said of the flexible scheduling.

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