RCSD students beat learning loss with free private school summer program

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ROCHESTER — When school lets out for the summer, kids around the country are eager to take a break. But for many, the break leads to the dreaded summer slide – a loss in all the learning that took place the last school year.

To help beat learning loss, Allendale Columbia Day School runs an entirely free program for students from the Rochester City School District.

For the next five weeks, 150 students from the Rochester City School District will be learning for free at the private school. They’ll be avoiding the dreaded summer slide with lessons in reading and math, and practicing their social and emotional skills. They’ll also be getting off campus for field trips.

“So lots of opportunities to do some exploratory learning, outside of the classroom and outside of campus,” head of school Shannon Baudo said.

Students have gone swimming at the YMCA, visited the Rochester Museum and Science Center, and even got to pick out free books from South Avenue’s Hippocampus Books.

Nine-year-old Sydnee McNeil said she loved her story.

“It’s called all about family,” she said. “I read it twice, on the way home, and on the way from the Hippo Campo.”

McNeil said it’s her first time in the LEAP program. But just a few days in, she’s already very comfortable. Parent and substitute teacher Greg Torres said he is, too. He found out about the program from his school, as well as a daughter who’d had a friend attend.

“My daughter was very interested in wanting to go, and heard about the great experiences, so I was very eager to get the opportunity to have my kids come to LEAP,” Torres said.

Torres said he’s glad to have a place to help prevent learning loss in both his 5- and 11-year-old.

“It’s something that even for short periods of time like winter break that sometimes you see,” he said. “It gives them a sense of like, lack of confidence. Because like, teachers might ask them ‘you should know this,’ and they feel like they should, but they don’t.”

Parents don’t need to hunt down a six-week program to stop the summer slide. Nazareth University’s Interim Dean of Education Maria Hopkins said that any moment can be an opportunity to learn.

“Any sort of field trips that you can bring your kids on, and they don’t always have to be explicitly for learning to happen. But when you’re out at the park at the library or at Wegmans doing your grocery shopping,” Hopkins said. “Using their brains to do important thinking and using the skills that they have to prevent summer learning loss.”

Learning loss can and does happen to all demographics, Hopkins said.

“We generally see more learning loss that happens in lower-income communities, and we generally see more learning loss happen in math as opposed to reading,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said parents don’t need to sit their kid down at a desk all summer to keep them ready for the next school year. But even a little bit of engagement goes a long way.

“The very best thing you can do is to prioritize reading,” Hopkins said. “Even though summer learning loss happens more with math than reading, reading is such an important mechanism for how students gain skills and knowledge.”