HCISD summer school, programs in session

HARLINGEN — It’s back to school time.

School kids these past few months have had their schedules, structures and disciplines put on hold while the Harlingen school district enforced measures to keep them safe.

Now, the district is opening up for school this summer with some novel changes to meet the unique times.

Remediation courses began Monday for high school students at Harlingen High School, and the district’s popular Beyond the Bell program opened at both HHS and Long Elementary with all sorts of enrichment activities and more of those classes will begin next week.

“We have three different models taking place,” said Shane Strubhart, spokesperson for the Harlingen school district.

“We have the virtual model, which means everything will be online,” he said. “And then we’ll have the hybrid model where kids will actually be in the classroom with a teacher in a small group on designated days, and then some kids will be virtually, Zoom, so that’s the hybrid model.”

The third model will be the face-to-face variety in which students will go to school and be in a classroom.

“We have all kinds of activities,” Strubhart said excitedly. “We have coding class where they’re learning how to code. We also have stuff like pottery. Some of them started this week. Some of them will start next week.”

As for remediation, the district had to take a proactive, “strategic” approach toward that end. The district brought in only those students in serious need of core credit hours. And it tied in to state testing or, in this case, the lack of.

“This was a unique year in that we didn’t have any state testing,” said Alicia Noyola, chief academic officer for the Harlingen school district.

“Typically the state testing and the students’ performance guides us in terms of summer programming,” Noyola said. “The state assessment guided us a lot on summer programming because there were students obviously that may not have done well. We would use summer school to focus on those gaps that the assessments revealed.”

Obviously, this year the district didn’t have that tool available. Classes were canceled across the state before those tests could be administered. Fortunately, that was not the only tool available.

“Teachers relied partly on their own individual knowledge of where the student was and what their gaps were, plus other data that we have in house,” Noyola said. “That information is what really guided us on identifying what students we would bring in for summer programming.”

More specifically, district educators used information at hand to identify any students lacking a substantial number of credits or who were looking to retake a course.

“Those students are within our summer programming right now,” she said. “Right now we are only doing secondary schools. June 8 through July 2 will be summer school for our secondary students.”

The other piece of remediation will take begin July 6 when Jump Start Summer School opens for elementary school children. Jump Start is a two-week program which helps students prepare for the upcoming school year. This year’s session will focus on gaps related to school closures during the pandemic.

It’s being held a little earlier than in previous summers.

“With our elementary over the last few years we’ve focused on not doing summer school immediately after the end of the school year, but bringing them back early before school starts,” Noyola said. “We wanted to get them a little bit more refreshed and be able to jump start them a little bit into the next school year.”

Typically, Jump Start would begin toward the end of July. This year, for obvious reasons, the needs are rather different.

“We felt like we needed to close gaps a little, that we needed to start a little earlier with that,” Noyola said.