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HFM BOCES to offer remote summer schooling

JOHNSTOWN — Administrators at HFM BOCES are preparing plans to offer credit recovery and summer enrichment programs to students throughout the region virtually this year following the announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week that summer school options would be conducted remotely due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

HFM BOCES District Superintendent David Ziskin during Wednesday’s virtual Board of Education meeting noted that Cuomo on May 21 announced there would be no in-person summer school this year. The governor is set to issue an executive order allowing summer school programs to be offered remotely as all instruction across the state has been offered since the Cuomo ordered schools to close in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Cuomo additionally stated last week that school districts will continue to be required to provide free breakfast and lunch to students over the summer and access to childcare for essential workers.

While school districts await the release of the executive order to review full details, HFM BOCES Deputy Superintendent Lorraine Hohenforst reported that district administrators have been working on plans to conduct summer school virtually for several weeks in anticipation of an announced continuation of remote learning.

“We have been working diligently and have been planning ahead even before we got the final word,” said Hohenforst.

Again this year HFM BOCES will organize regional summer school for students in grades nine through 12 and a skill enrichment program for students in grades six through eight from component school districts throughout the region, albeit in a virtual environment for the first time.

The regional summer school program will provide high school students at all grade levels opportunities to recover course credits needed to graduate and will follow its normal 20-day schedule with instruction occurring Monday through Friday.

“We will set the parameters so those students and teachers will know starting and stopping times,” said Hohenforst.

The program will feature alternating days of remote instruction and “classroom” activities over videoconference provided by summer school teachers to small groups of students and the use of online software to develop content skills. The district is currently considering using a credit recovery program through Apex Learning.

“The thing we like about that program in particular, it has assessments built in so teachers can see how well students are gaining the content knowledge that they need to gain in order to be able to demonstrate mastery of the content for the course that they are taking to obtain that credit,” said Hohenforst.

Teachers will also maintain virtual office hours during set times to allow students to ask questions or seek support. Instructors will also reach out to individual students who may need additional assistance interacting with the class remotely or utilizing online software to complete coursework.

“Making sure that the students aren’t hitting the bump in the road where they’re going to be unsuccessful,” said Hohenforst.

Hohenforst noted the district has prepared a new service request outlining plans for the virtual summer school for approval by the state Education Department.

“It’s a new service for us, for HFM BOCES to do a regional summer school virtually, so we needed to write a new service request,” said Hohenforst. “I anticipate that shouldn’t be long in coming back to us for approval since no one can operate a face-to-face regional summer school program this year.”

HFM BOCES will also offer a middle school enrichment program for grades six through eight that will see students working with teachers virtually to strengthen their math and English Language Arts skills over course of the two to three-week program.

“So, when they start school in September they will at least have a little bit of a better foundation to be successful in the coursework that they will be taking,” said Hohenforst.

Secondary school principals from component school districts in the HFM BOCES region will be briefed on the remote summer school plans and have an opportunity to provide feedback today during the district’s next virtual curriculum council meeting.

Component school districts whose students participate in the program will be asked to ensure students have internet access and the technology necessary to take part in instruction, with BOCES to provide support facilitating access when possible.

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