WINCHESTER, Ky. (LEX 18) — With a near-normal summer school officially in session, schools across central Kentucky have seen an increase in enrollment.
Baker Intermediate in Clark County offered summer school for the first time this summer due to the amount of interest and sheer need.
"I noticed that many students didn't have the same opportunities as others during virtual learning," said sixth grade math teacher Chelsea Braakman.
As she taught her small class on Tuesday, students listened attentively, hardly getting any of her practice questions wrong.
"With the pandemic, it just caused a lot of academic gaps, so it (summer school) just created a lot of opportunity for students, for us, to close those gaps," said Braakman.
Although attendance at Baker was zero in 2019, in Clark County Public Schools overall, 789 students enrolled compared to 40 in 2019.
"This is such a small group, and you know you have to pay attention because you're so small, and it's a lot more one on one help, and there's aides in the room as well that are able to work one on one with those students to help close those gaps," said Braakman.
In Bourbon County Public Schools, enrollment is up at least 40% since 2019 for their Summer Empowerment Academy.
"Our morning and afternoon we've had a focus on math and literacy and then the afternoon we've done enrichment activity," said Superintendent Amy Baker explaining how it works.
On Tuesday during enrichment, students played dodgeball, created art and played instruments. In the past they've gardened, cooked and practiced yoga.
"That socialization piece is so important and, like I said, we have that academic in the morning but then we feed them in the afternoon and then we have counseling for their emotional well-being. Kids that need of physical therapy, occupational therapy, all those services," said Baker.
What's unique about this year is that plenty of parents and students signed up just for the normal school experience or extra-curriculars.
Sophia Price is one of those students who has a good academic record but wanted the socialization and environment. She just wanted to do art for a couple hours a day.
"I missed a lot of like doing this type of stuff with the pandemic and whatnot, but this this makes it feel more normal," said Price. "I would associate summer school with like having to redo classes and stressful a lot and what-not but it's a lot more."
Band Director and Instructor Michael Stone says it's also been a change for him and his students.
"Normally our music students don't generally attend summer school just because a lot of them are the higher achieving students. So they pass all their classes and before we've done credit recovery, so now this year with the enrichment stuff, we've just been able to offer more to them," said Stone.
Many of the students attend to prepare for their upcoming feature in the Macy's Parade, which is happening in 2022. They're planning a fundraiser to come up with the nearly $100,000 they need to participate.
"This stuff is all everything we want to do during the school year, and we didn't get a chance to," said Stone.
The U.S. Education Department doesn't have an exact estimate yet, but according to the Associated Press, they believe the number of students attending summer learning programs this year will exceed the estimated 3.3 million who went to mandatory or optional summer school in 2019, before the pandemic.
While it has added more tasks on their to-do lists and created more costs, the Biden administration gave states money specifically for summer programs.
Schools like Bourbon County used that money to expand their programs and pay their teachers more money through raises and bonuses.
The started a preschool summer program for the first time this year and have 200 children enrolled.
"A lot of good things, you know come out the COVID-19 and this is one of the, we see this need for just a really strong summer school program," said Bourbon Country District Aministrator Darlene Gee.