Many families are worried about the time and knowledge children lost from not being in school during the COVID-19 pandemic. With fewer restrictions and school districts creating new or expanding existing summer school programs, all are hoping students can catch up.

After months of going without in-person learning, summer schools across New York are open. And they’re starting with their littlest learners.

What You Need To Know

  • Students have lost consistent in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, as educators say many are one or two grade levels behind

  • Summer school options for elementary-age kids are helping close the gaps

  • The Syracuse Academy of Science has 4- and 5-year-olds in class this summer

Like students across New York, 4- and 5-year-olds are going to summer school at the Syracuse Academy of Science, working to bridge the education gap caused by the pandemic.

“A lot of them didn’t get to go to Pre-K, so they’re getting that taste of school before school actually starts,” said teacher Aileen Figueroa, who has taught kindergarten or pre-K for nine years at the school.

Figueroa says she’s focusing on the basics this summer for her pre-k and kindergarten students.

“They’re missing a lot of that O.T. [occupational therapy] skills like cutting, their name, drawing simple lines,” she said. “So we’re working on things like that. Letters and sounds.”

Across the hall, third grade teacher Alexandria Williams is pushing her students that extra mile.

“We lengthened summer school. We lengthen the amount of time that they’re here. And we are really just driving the curriculum hard to prepare them and to fill in those gaps before they go into the next school year,” Williams said.

Even though it’s summer, students say they want to be together in class.

“Because it’s kinda hard at home,” student Christopher Billue said.

“In real school, I think it’s easier and it’s way easier to learn,” said student Richard Velazquez Jr. “You don’t get to see your friends as much [from home]. But you can see them all the time in school, so it’s more fun and easier.”

At the end of the school year, educators feared students were one to two grade levels behind. Summer school teachers say they’re seeing progress rapidly.

“Having a lot of these students that learned remotely the whole school get to be in the classroom physically with their teacher, with their classmates and doing hands-on work, has already caused so many gaps to be filled,” Williams said.

Social-emotional instruction and discipline were missing pieces, teachers say, in the pandemic puzzle for education.

“It’s so much more lively for them and hands-on when they get to be around their friends,” Williams said, “and they feed off each other. When one person is getting excited about math, the person next to them is getting excited about math. And when they see that I’m passionate about what I’m teaching, they’re excited to learn.”