Esko school district will be offering new alternative programming this summer in an effort to help students who fell behind in their academics during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The School Board unanimously approved the programs for both high school and elementary students at their meeting on Monday, May 24, following presentations from district officials.

The summer sessions will include 60 elementary school students and 46 high school students. It will cost $14,760 in district money.

According to Superintendent Aaron Fischer, costs of the summer programming is offset by state and federal COVID-19 relief funds received by the district. In addition to these funds, he said the high school has also applied for a state grant geared toward alternative learning programs.

“I fully support this," Fischer said. “I think it will help our kids.”

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He emphasized that programs will not be intensive, but will gently help to bridge gaps formed in students' educations over the past year.

Although, the elementary and high school sessions will look different from one another, according to district officials.

Elementary Principal Brian Harker explained that 10 students from each elementary grade level will be selected for the program using data collected by the school and the state. These students will then be split into groups of five and taught by a teacher from the grade level in which they are going into. For example, students going into third grade in the fall of 2021 will be taught by a current third-grade teacher.

Harker explained that the decision was made to implement summer recovery sessions for younger students after significant improvement was noticed in those who partook in the winter intervention programs.

He said families whose students were involved in winter programming have been requesting that educational help continue to be offered during the summer.

According to Harker, the elementary program will operate for nine days spread across June, July and August.

In contrast to the elementary schedule, the high school programs will not last all summer, with sessions taking place June 14 until July 1.

Typically, Esko offers summer credit recovery through the Cloquet Alternative Learning Program, but due to the high number of students needing help this summer, officials decided it would be best to offer summer sessions directly through Esko school.

“It’s great to have this program on campus this year," high school Principal Greg Hexum said. “It’s Esko standards, Esko teachers, Esko work.”

Hexum explained that this year's sessions will focus on credit recovery through individualized learning.

Upon agreeing to the program, students will enter into two contracts: one for enrollment and one for credit recovery.

While the enrollment contract will give basic expectations for student behavior in the program, the credit recovery contract will be much more specific.

Credit contracts will be between the student and the teacher whose course they need to complete and will detail what that student must do for class credit.

Hexum explained that students may finish the summer program early because once they have completed all their contracts, they are done.

The summer sessions will offer credit recovery for both first semester and second semester courses, with teachers available to help monitor and provide support to students while they work.

Both elementary and high school families will be contacted in the near future if their student is selected for the summer programs. They will have the option to decline summer programming if they wish to do so.

If a family wishes to enroll a student who was not selected for the program, they can contact Esko school officials to put in a request.

While numbers have technically been set for the summer, Fischer said he would hope the district would be flexible and accommodate more students if necessary.

To reach the high school office, call 218-879-2969.

To reach the elementary office, call 218-879-3361.