Jenn Smith | Recess: Summer gives educators time to plan for remote learning - just in case

Site supervisor Crystal Ames carries out meals for kids at Greylock Elementary School in North Adams on June 24, 2020. The free meals for kids and teens program is for all youths up to 18 years old. The emergency feeding program, which started in April, has received funding to continue until August 21, in the Greylock School location only.

Heading into the summer, and even back to school this fall, schools have one advantage they didn't have when schools closed back in March: time to plan.

At this stage in pandemic response, the playing field is a bit more level when it comes to remote learning now that students and teachers have had some practice and have identified issues of accessibility and connectivity.

Most schools are offering summer programs virtually, either for enrichment or remediation. This will give schools a little more latitude on how to design and teach in ways that are fun, engaging and helpful for growth.

In a June 15 blog post on finding balance between summer fun and learning, Montessori School of the Berkshires Director of Education Meagan Ledendecker wrote, "After spending a bit of time this spring working with your child at home, you likely have a pretty good idea about what their strengths and weaknesses are. While summer is a great time to ease up on academics, it's perfectly fine to spend a little time focusing on skills where your child could use a little extra support."

Right now, school leaders in the Berkshires are poring over more data than ever, from the latest COVID-19 numbers, to feedback from surveys sent to families asking them to evaluate the spring semester and share suggestions for the fall.

Most districts and schools are in the process of convening reopening task force or subcommittee groups, as they put together state-mandated reopening plans for a fully in-person, hybrid, and a completely remote fall semester. Reach out to you respective school, college or child care center to find out how to get involved in the decision-making process.

Detailed planning is also happening to better meet the needs of students with individualized education plans, or IEPs. Pittsfield Public Schools, for example, is holding a four-week language enrichment program for English language learners, and is partnering with Community Access to the Arts to host a special education virtual summer school.

Local school food service departments and restaurants will continue offering free summer meals to families. Additional community groups are offering supplemental meals and groceries for families still struggling to make ends meet. According to the state's guidance, schools are being asked to prepare to offer meals and snacks in classrooms versus the cafeteria and common areas, to avoid large, close gatherings while unmasked. If schools resume remote learning this fall, the state is asking for schools to continue to fulfill school meals for days students are not in the school building.

What questions, ideas and concerns do you have for reopening schools this fall? Let me know at, at @JennSmith_Ink on Twitter and 413-496-6239.