BY JEFF JAMES
Summer reading camps have been around for many years. Typically, Iredell-Statesville Schools works within our district and also with agencies across the county to provide reading opportunities each summer.
This year, however, we had to take learning to the next level. I-SS, like other districts in our state, has redefined summer school in 2021. Our Curriculum and Instruction Department worked for months to put together six weeks of summer school that would be engaging and hands on. We envisioned reading and math learning opportunities in elementary school and STEM-infused instruction in our middle schools and high schools.
We were aware that our students needed remediation, but we also knew that making learning fun and engaging would be the key to our success. In short, the pandemic left education systems across the country in dire need of remediation, and our goal was to step up bravely to the plate. While we could never fill the one-and-half-year void that the pandemic created, we set out to bring excitement back into our buildings for six weeks this summer.
In addition to serving 1,507 students in summer school this year, 200 students accessed our credit recovery program so they could get back on track academically. We also had 45 enrichment camps across our district. A total of 252 students enjoyed enrichment camps, which varied from culinary camps to engineering camps. We tried to offer fun and engaging opportunities where our students could interact socially and learn something new.
Featured in several news articles was the Rockets, Rovers, and Robots camp at the Career Academy and Technical School (CATS) in Troutman. Rockets Rovers and Robots Camp was an endeavor I-SS began months ago when the board challenged us to bring a passion for learning back into our school buildings.
Board members asked us to do something to make kids want to be in school more than at home. Larry Rogers, principal at CATS, seemed just as excited as the kids during this three-week camp. As Mr. Rogers put it, “In my years of education, I don’t think I have ever seen kids so engaged in learning.” Two students who attended the camp appeared on WAME Radio with me during the camp. They shared their excitement for the camp, and for the opportunity to explore a future career. The camp, a partnership with the Buzz Aldrin Foundation and PCG, brought The Aldrin Foundation in to help design the curriculum along with a former Kennedy Space Center director.
What an experience it was for our students. I recall one of the parents who joined us at WAME Radio who waited after the show to tell me how much the camp and the learning environment brought his son out of his shell. “ He is a different kid, Dr. James. This camp has been a great positive influence on my son and his excitement to attend school.” These are words every educator loves to hear.
As we finish our summer programs and summer school, I’d like to offer a sincere thanks to our summer administrators, teachers, bus drivers, teacher assistants, office staff, cafeteria staff, and custodians. Without them all, these summer programs wouldn’t have taken place. Their dedication to the students of Iredell County is something we should all be mindful of and give thanks for.
We are already at work for the 2021-2022 school year. We have lots of catching up to do academically, along with the rest of the state and nation. We will hit the ground running on August 9 for our students in early college, and then again on August 23 for all of our other K-12 schools. We remain committed to creating engaging opportunities for our students. School should be fun, and our goal is to ignite a
passion for learning.
Dr. Jeff James is superintendent of Iredell-Statesville Schools.