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N.H. Summer Programs Expand to Combat Learning Loss, Isolation for Students

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School districts and non-profits are gearing up for a busy summer with expanded programs to help students catch up on academics and socialize after a year of disruptions.

Many schools are reporting higher than average interest among families in summer school. These programs are offered every year, but are receiving an extra boost through federal COVID relief funding.

Some districts, like Somersworth, are creating programs geared toward incoming kindergarteners, many of whom skipped preschool this past year.

Others are partnering with local organizations to help seniors recover credits and get their diploma this summer.

Brenda Guggisberg, who directs The Upper Room, a family resource in Derry, is partnering with Pinkerton Academy to help students at risk of dropping out get their degree in a two-week Summer Institute.

“We’re just trying to figure out how to get to the other side of this,” she says. “So the schools that we are working with - the administration, and the guidance and social workers - they're really looking to try to help these students and families be successful."

The New Hampshire Department of Education is also boosting support for summer activities and learning loss programs with the help of federal COVID relief aid.

Credit Graphics by Sara Plourde/NHPR
NHPR's COVID & The Classroom is a reporting project looking at the effects of the pandemic on New Hampshire's students, parents, teachers, and schools.

Students with disabilities and those from low- and middle-income families are eligible for up to $650 to help pay for summer camps approved by the state. The Department of Education says the goal is to support students whose social and mental health have been hurt by the pandemic.

The Department is also paying for families and school districts to create "learning pods" this fall, in partnership with an Arizona-based company calledPrenda. Learning pods with informal or trained teachers became more popular during the pandemic.

An Arizona newspaper has reported that the Arizona Attorney General's office is investigating Prenda and a partner organization for use of charter school funding.

New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut says he is in touch with the Arizona Attorney General’s office and will severe the department’s relationship with Prenda if there are “ethical or other issues.”

Editor's note: The Arizona Attorney General's office has since determined the complaint against Prenda was unfounded and has closed the case.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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