July 26, 2021
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Cotati Rohnert Park in Summer School

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
June 18, 2021

The Cotati Rohnert Park School District started their summer school sessions last week. Superintendent Mayra Perez took this reporter on a tour of the classes on Monday June 13. Middle School sessions are being held on the Technology Middle School (TMS) campus. Elementary School sessions are being held at the John Reed Elementary School site. Sessions are half day in length with YMCA care both before and after school available. 

It’s been years since the district held summer school sessions. They were able to do so this year, and perhaps next year, because funding provided by Extended Learning Opportunity grants.

Provided as part of COVID-19 relief funding, those grants were to address learning loss during Distance Learning. That funding doesn’t expire until August 2022. Attendance was by invitation only and primarily targeted at students at risk to include Foster and Homeless children, English Learners and other students at risk. Principals and teachers identified students they felt would be best served and contacted families to enroll them. Not all families accepted their invitation, so they kept going until all spots were filled.

At the high school level, they continued their credit recovery sessions. Special Education students also continued their normal “Extended School Year” classes. So, the summer school sessions were over and above those normal summertime programs. Teachers came from all over the district with some high school teachers volunteering to teach middle and elementary school classes. For example, at John Reed, Macy Juhola is serving as summer school principal. Normally she’s the Monte Vista Elementary assistant principal. She conducted the John Reed tour proudly showing off the kids and teachers in TK through sixth grade. She said, “the teachers have been amazing to work with.” Perez said, “we wanted to create extended learning opportunities that are engaging to our students.” It appears they succeeded from what I saw. 

At TMS kids were doing ceramics outside on the patio. Each student had their own kit as per COVID protocols. From a turtle to a rose, heart, or mushroom, the kids showed us their work. In Amy Alvarez’s Civic Engagement class, they were debating a cell phone policy for the district to learn about voting and representative governance. One young man thought they shouldn’t be allowed because they are distracting, while another thought they should be allowed for researching information. Perez challenged both to debate the issue from the other person’s viewpoint. In the STEM Lab they were building miniature roller coasters. Last week the Culinary Math class created pizzas and this week they’re planning on making Banana Bread. Using math and how it applies to the kitchen they are learning recipe conversions, fractions and addition. They are creating a recipe book to take home for making tasty treats for their families.

At John Reed, 150 students are engaged with no more than 15 students assigned to the classroom. However, thanks to the partnership with YMCA, they’ve been able to split the classes in half. Half get enrichment opportunities with the YMCA on a wide variety of topics, while the other half get instruction as appropriate for their grade level. Exercises included numbers and letters. Another was using cardboard paper to create mosaics of different colors to post on the walls. The YMCA coordinator told me they get about 15 students before school starting at 7 a.m. but typically around 60 students remain on campus until the 5 p.m. closing time. They continue doing their enrichment projects in small groups until picked up by parents. 

When Perez asked kids why they wanted to be in summer school, they told her “They wanted to be with friends” or “because my parents wanted me to.” For many of the younger kids, this is their first experience with in-person schooling. Perez hopes to keep this going, even after the grant funding expires. While summertime is a time of camps, sports, and vacations for many who can afford it, many kids lack structured activities to engage their minds over the summer months. A program such as the one created by the school district could help fill that void. Seeing the smiling faces and engaged activities, it was evident the kids appreciated what the district has created for them.

As a reminder, enrollment for schools in the Cotati Rohnert Park district is underway for next school year. Perez wanted to stress that the district plans to be fully opened for in-person instruction at all school sites in the fall.