This past year has been filled with examples of creative solutions to challenging situations, especially for students, families, and educators. As area schools reopened in August, the conversation continued to center on safe and solid learning environments for all students and staff.
Since August 2020, Dr. Susie Meade, Chief Administrator at Prairie Lakes AEA, has hosted weekly Zoom meetings each Tuesday morning for all area superintendents. Roark Horn, Executive Director at the School Administrators of Iowa, also joined these Zoom meetings to share information and provide feedback from a statewide perspective.
“It’s been a terrific way for us to share and learn from each other,” Meade said. “It’s also been a way for us to learn the challenges they’re facing so we can help find solutions and services.”
Many superintendents expressed an interest in offering summer learning experiences for students, but wanted to make sure to give their teachers a much-needed break. In search of a solution, Meade and Horn reached out to leaders in the Education Departments at the University of Northern Iowa and Drake University to see how they might be able to help superintendents fill this need. Both universities offer teacher certification programs and this would be an opportunity for their students to get experience and get paid for their work. These students are referred to as “pre-service teachers, which is a student who is studying to become a teacher and is typically in their third or fourth year of the program. They haven’t finished their degree and aren’t yet certified. This summer school experience is arranged much like student teaching, which pairs the pre-service teacher with an experienced teacher from the district.
Both universities worked with Prairie Lakes AEA to put together an approach and four school districts signed up to participate: Emmetsburg, Estherville Lincoln Central, Gilmore City-Bradgate/West Bend-Mallard, and Manson Northwest Webster. Each district created a program designed to meet the needs of its students.
Emmetsburg and Estherville Lincoln Central will offer summer school to elementary through high school students in June. Manson Northwest Webster dates are flexible and are also being offered to elementary through high school students. At Gilmore City-Bradgate/West Bend-Mallard, the summer program will be offered to elementary students in mid-June and again in late July/early August. All offered a rate of $15 per hour, and three were able to offer housing.
“We’re very thankful for our partners at Drake and UNI for this innovative solution so our students can have a solid summer learning experience,” Meade said. “Summer school is a great opportunity as it typically offers smaller class sizes and more hands to help provide more services for kids."