PHOENIX — It may be summertime, but many students are still in learning mode. With all the uncertainty surrounding the state of education, districts across the Valley are boosting their summertime options to help students rebound.
"I'm in the math department, so we are using rockets to simulate the quadratic formula," said Serena Lederer, who teaches math at Westwood High School. It is one of 81 sites in the Mesa Public Schools district offering summer programming this year.
"I had a hard time, that's why I'm here in summer school, I had to retake a few classes because I couldn't get the credit," said Jesus Donate Garcia, who is going into his senior year at Westwood.
"I did online the whole year, so I feel like it helps you a lot to get ready for the year and all of that," said Brenda Ayala, who is entering her junior year.
The academies are designed to help students recover credits, identify learning gaps, and reconnect with life on campus after a roller coaster school year.
"They want that interaction and that one-on-one help that we're providing over the summer," said Lederer.
District officials tell ABC15 they've seen a 26% increase in overall student enrollment this summer compared to 2019. That number jumps to 78% for English Language Learning students and 48% for special education.
"We really just had a couple extra weeks of school," said Scott Thompson, assistant superintendent for business and support services for Mesa Public Schools. "I mean I'm running buses, I'm feeding the kids."
Thompson says when the district saw the high demand for more K-12 summer programming they went all in, putting nearly $70 million in federal COVID relief funds to work.
"It wouldn't have happened otherwise, I mean it just wouldn't have," said Thompson.
ABC15 looked through dozens of federal funding applications and found at least ten other districts in Maricopa County also marking their federal relief money for summer support.
It is a way to help students and staff get back on track heading into another school year still full of uncertainty.
"Definitely the first week is reconnecting and assessing and seeing where our kids are," said Lederer.
"Will the kids who didn't return last year, return? That's the question on I think every school district minds right now," said Thompson.