CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — After another pandemic-disrupted school year, organizers of vastly expanded summer learning opportunities are investing heavily in efforts to make them accessible to the most vulnerable students.
While there have been success stories, the programs have faced many of the same challenges that educators have been up against since the pandemic hit: Attendance has been inconsistent, some families have lost interest, and COVID-19 still has many reluctant to let students learn in-person.
Educators also have had to address persistent barriers to access for summer programs for families that juggle work and child care and have limited access to transportation.
“We’re starting from a really unequal playing field,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation who studies educational inequity. “There’s a lot that school districts have to do, and community organizations that are running these programs as well, in order to help pick that up.”
The summer programs offered by schools and community groups are powered by an infusion of private and public funding — including billions of dollars in federal stimulus money — to help students catch up on learning. School districts targeted their outreach to students identified as high needs, including students with failing grades in core classes or in high-poverty neighborhoods.
When Peñasco Independent School District, which serves roughly 350 students in New Mexico, announced a summer program this year, demand overwhelmed the number of slots until the district doubled the number of seats available.
But of the 85 children signed up, more than half would not be able to attend if it weren't for district-provided transportation services.
In Peñasco, pervasive intergenerational poverty has pushed school...