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A far cry from ‘summer school’

We can all remember the sense of freedom at the end of the school year, when the summer stretched ahead, promising sun-splashed days of leisure, family trips, swimming and sand-castle building. “Summer school” was something to be avoided if possible, or endured as a punishment for failing to keep up with grade-level peers.

This summer, however, the Medford School District will offer something far more inviting, thanks to extra state and federal funding. School hasn’t been the same for anyone since the coronavirus pandemic struck last year, and students are only now getting back to in-person instruction. Distance learning made up for some of the face-to-face interaction with teachers and peers, but it couldn’t be as effective.

Students who take the whole summer off can lose ground even under normal circumstances. This year, it’s important to offer them the opportunity to stay engaged, make up for lost ground and prepare for the grade level they will enter next fall.

The district is billing this as a “Summer Experience,” consisting of four two-week sessions, half-days Monday through Thursday, from June 14 through Aug. 12 except for the week of July 5. Bus transportation and free lunch is available to all students who sign up.

Students can choose one of the two-week sessions or all of them if they wish. District officials say they plan to accommodate however many students sign up.

That wide-open offering is thanks to a $4.77 million Summer Learning and Child Care package from the state, along with federal money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund, part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed by Congress.

The district is hiring extra staff and lining up community volunteers who want to help as well. The Summer Experience program will be staffed as though one-third of district students will attend, but the goal is to accommodate every student who signs up. Those interested in applying can attend a job fair from 4-7 p.m. Thursday at district headquarters.

Students may not be overjoyed at the prospect of attending school during the summer, but it’s a valuable opportunity to brush up on skills and get ready for returning to school full-time in August. A two-week session of half-days will still leave plenty of time for summer fun, and who knows? The Summer Experience could turn out to be fun, too.