With her three teens vaccinated against COVID-19, Aja Purnell-Mitchell let them decide if they wanted to go back to school for the summer. The decision was unanimous: yes.

“Going back, re-socializing with his friends, maybe meeting new people, and of course learning what they lacked in Zoom,” said the mother from Durham County, NC. It will be the first time her daughters have been in a classroom since the spring of 2020, when the coronavirus hit the United States.

Across the country, more children than ever could be in classrooms this summer to make up for the learning lost during the pandemic, which caused monumental disruptions to education. School districts across the country are expanding their summer programs and offering bonuses for teachers to participate.

According to an aid package from the federal government, states must dedicate some of the billions of dollars to summer programs.


The Department of Education says it is too early to know how many students will enroll. But the number will almost certainly exceed the 3.3 million who attended summer classes in 2019.

In Montgomery, Alabama, for example, more than 12,000 of the 28,000 students in the school system were enrolled before the June 1 deadline. Usually about 2,500 go to summer school. Philadelphia had enrolled 14,700 as of last Friday, compared to 9,300 students in the fully virtual sessions last summer.

“It’s an understatement to say the needs are greater this year,” said Kalman Hettleman, an educational policy analyst in Maryland.

One month away from the July 4 holiday, the president is focused on meeting his goal of having 70% of adults vaccinated with at least one dose, and named June as “month of action” to complete this goal.

“It’s not realistic to think that summer school, no matter how good and intense it is, will close all the gaps because so many kids had before the pandemic,” Hettleman said.

Taylor Dennington, a high school freshman in Las Vegas, never thought she would be in summer school, but she started hanging out with lots of friends last week, after a year of remote learning.

“This year was a demotivating school year,” he said.

“It got to the point where I wasn’t doing ANY work, I was just going to class,” said Dennington, who is taking biology and math. “I learn better in school than online. Being in a classroom where a teacher is present is much better than waiting hours to receive their email.”

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