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District 158 hopes double summer school reduced gaps caused by pandemic

by Jim Masters

LANSING, Ill. (August 20, 2021) — Students who attended Lansing School District 158’s “double” summer school sessions, received close to a full school year of education, says Coolidge Elementary Principal Kenneth Byrne.

“We are incredibly proud of the summer school staff for all their hard work in creating successful learning opportunities for the students,” said Byrne, who leads District 158’s summer school program. “We are hoping the summer school experience will help ease the transition back to a normal school year.”

Coolidge Elementary hosted summer school for elementary students this year, with 334 kids enrolled in both 20-day sessions, receiving instruction in both reading and math. And they were given breakfast and could take a lunch home with them at the end of the day.
The junior high school program mirrored the elementary program with two 20-day sessions. Approximately 200 students attended the middle school sessions.

District 158 has 2,703 students across five schools, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Kids are catching up

David Kostopoulos, Executive Director of Curriculum & Assessment, said that having two summer school sessions was a chance for students to double their academic gains.

“Having a session prior to the start of the school year helped serve as a transition piece for students that had not yet had the opportunity to attend Memorial Junior High in person, including incoming sixth-grade students coming from our elementary schools and also seventh-graders who had only taken part in virtual instruction last school year,” he said.

Dr. Nathan Schilling, Superintendent of Schools, previously acknowledged gaps in learning as an effect of students receiving instruction in a virtual environment for much of the 2020-2021 school year. But he believes students who attended both summer school sessions may have not only caught up but even gotten ahead for the coming school year.

District 158 schools welcomed students back for the new school year on August 18.

“Ken Byrne has been running summer educational programs for years and always does a great job,” Schilling said. “We ran two sessions of summer school this year rather than one in order to help students recover from learning loss during the health pandemic.”

Not your average summer school

Wouldn’t summer school be more fun if it was about more than reading and math? This summer, it was.

Every student received daily Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) opportunities from one of the district’s social workers. They could attend physical education, art, music, and S.T.E.M. classes during either session and also check out books.

During the first session, Jenn Fuller, Coolidge Learning Resource Director, delivered S.T.E.M. education by teaching engineering concepts by way of “egg-drop” projects. Partnering with the Lansing Fire Department, students witnessed how their projects withstood a drop from a fully extended ladder on a fire truck.

The summer school sessions ended with a celebration of learning with the help of Animal Quest, offering its brand of “education through entertainment” by bringing various animals to Coolidge for study and interaction.


Jim Masters
Jim Masters
Jim Masters grew up on 191st Street in Lansing. He attended Nathan Hale Elementary, was a member of St. Ann Church, graduated with the first graduating class at Heritage Middle School, and graduated from TF South High School in 1981. Inspired by his journalism teacher Joe Hyde, Jim earned a BA in Journalism from Northern Illinois University. He has more than 25 years of experience as beat reporter, specializing in government, politics, criminal justice, human interest stories, and education.