Tennessee education commissioner tours Memphis elementary school’s Summer Learning Academy

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn visited Lowrance Elementary in Memphis on Monday.

Schwinn toured classrooms and talked with students and teachers in Shelby County Schools’ Summer Learning Academy, a four-week program where students get lessons to make sure they don’t fall behind after a school year in the middle of the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is going to have a negative impact in what we might see in terms of terms of outcomes. That being said from the Department’s perspective, we are like our districts focusing on what comes next. We had a really, really disruptive year and it’s been very, very difficult for everybody,” Schwinn said.

Shelby County Schools started Summer Academies five years ago, and they have proven valuable tools especially after distance learning.

“We are really double dosing it in reading and in math. It gives our children an opportunity to have a safe place to learn and to get them ready for the Fall,” said Shelby County School Superintendent Joris Ray.

Shelby County hoped for 20,000 students in the Summer Learning Academy, which is separate from traditional Summer School. They got about 10,000 students.

SCS officials say that’s still a win because that many students wanted to make sure they stayed on track.

Commissioner Schwinn has been touring these type summer programs all across the state and says August 2 they plan to release early data on learning loss.

“I am thrilled with what we are seeing in summer programming in this district and across the state.  I cannot be more proud of the leadership, the teachers, the parents and the district staff who are putting all this work in. It has been tremendous for our state and I feel very strongly we will be better off because of it,” said Schwinn.

WREG asked Commissioner Schwinn about safety protocols as kids head back to school. She said they are working with the department of health and allowing local districts to determine what is best for them.

Superintendent Joris Ray says they have determined masks are best for students in Memphis and they are also reducing the student-to-teacher ratio for K-2 to make classes smaller.

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