The Camden public school system plans to open summer school full-time for every student in the South Jersey district, Superintendent Katrina McCombs announced Monday.
Camden joins a growing number of districts across the region and around the country, including Philadelphia, that plan to extend the school year to make up for learning that was disrupted by the pandemic. Many schools began the year with remote instruction and phased-in a mix of hybrid learning.
McCombs said the district plans to spend about $1 million to offer summer enrichment programs five days a week for K through 12th-grade students. Camden received more than $103 million in federal stimulus funds to get students caught up on what they missed, and reopen schools.
“What better way to begin our new normal than by offering in-person summer enrichment programs for our students,” McCombs said during a news conference at the Octavius Catto Family School. Camden began returning students to the classroom in April after more than a year of virtual instruction.
The district is prepared to enroll about 1,000 students but would add more slots to meet demand, McCombs said. Camden enrolls about 6,800 students in its traditional public schools. Last year, about 700 participated in summer school.
The summer program is also open to the 4,350 students who attend charter schools in Camden and the 3,850 pupils enrolled in renaissance schools, the superintendent said.
McCombs said summer school will begin July 6 at a dozen sites around the city and run for four weeks. Unlike previous years when the program was a half-day, summer school will be all day, she said.
For students in K-8, the program will focus on literacy, math, STEM, and coding, McCombs said. The program will also address students’ social and emotional needs. There will be virtual field trips and enrichment programs for cooking, arts, dance, and music, she said.
Middle and high school students will be able to recover three to four core credits during the summer to make up failed classes and get back on track for the 2021-22 school year, McCombs said. Those sessions will be held in the morning and afternoon.
“We know that the pandemic was very difficult on our students,” McCombs said. “We want to do everything possible to make sure our students are graduating on time.”
The district is also offering a four-week “bridge” program to all incoming freshmen to help with the transition from eighth grade. Previously, the program was only available to students enrolling in Camden’s magnet schools.
The district will also provide a hot breakfast and lunch to students, McCombs said.