Dallas and Fort Worth independent school districts started their summer breaks Friday after their school years were extended by three weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both school districts have expressed concerns about the "pandemic slide," which left many students falling behind because of the sudden change to remote learning caused by COVID-19.
To combat this, Fort Worth ISD will be opening summer learning programs for all of its students regardless of grade level. The district said its plan is to have students catch up in any subject they feel they struggled with.
More than 7,500 students had applied for the program through last week, making it the largest in-person summer school program yet for Fort Worth.
Meanwhile, Dallas ISD will take a different approach. The school district is letting schools opt into new calendar school years, which would add extra weeks of class time for students who need it. The option would also mean that the next two school years would start earlier and end later, making summer breaks a few weeks shorter.
Dallas ISD has also focused on its “Finish Strong” initiative to help struggling high school seniors graduate on time.
Alexy Ramirez, a graduating senior from Trinidad Garza Early College High School, said the program helped lift her out of distractions from remote learning and get back into a classroom full time.
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“I think it’s really helped me get on track by helping me set up a schedule with myself, being able to start the classes that I actually didn’t start when I was supposed to with all the distractions keeping me back," she said. "And with all the teachers willing to help me set complete everything that I needed to to graduate, I think that was a really great thing that DISD provided for so many students.”
According to the school district, the program has helped increase the graduation rate from 66% in April to more than 90% as of Friday.
"It was a really big wake up call for me actually towards the end of my semester. Because you're reaching graduation and realize that, 'Oh I've been falling way behind. I'm way off track and I still haven't done everything that I need to do to get where I need to be,'" said Ramirez. "That was kind of a scary moment to realize that I was falling behind and wondering if I was going to graduate. It really motivated me to keep on working and to find the help that I needed to get back on track to graduate."
Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington ISD students can expect to be back in class Aug. 16.