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Culpeper schools gearing up for robust summer academy to address COVID learning loss
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Culpeper schools gearing up for robust summer academy to address COVID learning loss

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Nearly 25 percent of Culpeper County Public Schools students will attend summer school four days a week starting June 7 as part of “instructional recovery” plans described last week by the superintendent during the annual State of the Community program of the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce.

The toll of COVID-19 on students here and everywhere has been harsh, with many districts reporting lower attendance and an increase in failing grades during a year of school closures, at-home learning and limited in-person instruction.

More than 1,350 rising first to sixth graders are slated to attend the CCPS “summer academy program” at the various elementary schools from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Thursday through July 1, according to CCPS chief Tony Brads. More than 575 rising 7th to 12th graders will likewise attend summer school.

The latest enrollment at CCPS is around 8,000 students.

Supporting the summer academy program at the elementary level will be more than 100 teachers along with para-educators, nurses and counselors. Supporting secondary students in summer school will be more than 46 teachers and support staff.

“We will be offering a robust program,” said Brads of the summer academy in his State of the Community presentation.

Funding for the intensive initiative came from the federal CARES Act, he added. The process of planning for summer school was “fast and furious, but we’re moving ahead at the school division,” Brads said.

“We’re very excited,” he added. “It’s a great time for us, hoping to move forward to get our students back in a safe fashion (five days a week) because we believe our students learn best in person.”

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Recent information presented to the school board showed a marked jump in local first graders considered “at risk” for reading—from 35 percent in the fall of 2018 to 60 percent in the fall of 2020. Those figures, respectfully, for first graders at risk for math were 24 percent to 40 percent last fall.

“Moving forward” is the theme for CCPS, the superintendent said, as COVID-19 dissipates and “normal” instruction resumes. Brads highlighted four positive areas in the school system during his recent presentation, including the anticipated opening of the Culpeper Technical Education Center on the campus of Germanna Community College.

“It will be opening this August and I am very excited to say student registration is going well,” he said.

A new CTEC web site is active with the link on the home page of culpeperschools.org. In addition to details on all classes included in all of the course offerings—from cosmetology to CAD design to EMT to construction trades to cybersecurity—a separate tab maps out preparatory classes students can take starting in sixth grade.

“For parents, students to be thinking, how do I prepare for such a thing? So if am interested in cybersecurity, these are the courses … I should be taking to get myself prepared for this,” Brads said.

11th and 12th grade students enrolled at CTEC for the two-year program will graduate with an industry credential prepared to enter the workforce or continue higher education.

The school superintendent spoke about career opportunities at CCPS ,the county’s largest employer with 1,336 personnel. The school system offers various career paths from financial to clerical, custodial and food services, nurses, teachers, administrators, coaches and more, Brads said. Job openings are at the CCPS web site. In addition, a job fair will be held 9 a.m. to noon on April 24 at the new CTEC building.

As for the ongoing pandemic, CCPS will continue to partner with the local hospital and health department to offer weekly COVID-19 vaccination clinics at Culpeper Middle School, Brads said. As of last week, 85 percent of school staff had been vaccinated, he said.

“We hope to get more,” Brad said, noting the “plan moving forward is to develop an opportunity in the future for eligible students, parents, guardians and caregivers of students to be vaccinated.”

CCPS has avoided student-to-student transmission of the virus, he said, attributing the success to school staff and parents keeping kids home when they’re sick. Secondary students currently attending two days of in-person instruction will go to four days starting April 13 and remote learners will be added as space allows, Brads said. Remote learning will continue to be an option.

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