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Pinellas school district prepares for second year of Summer Bridge

A third-grade reading class at last year’s Summer Bridge.
Published Feb. 7, 2014

The Pinellas County School District is preparing for its second Summer Bridge, a six-week program for struggling students.

Last year's program, which cost about $3.1 million, served more than 9,000 students in elementary, middle and high schools. District officials expect to register more this year and are adding about four more elementary school sites.

"We think the positive results from last year combined with more information being available earlier will create greater interest from parents with children that could benefit from the program," district spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra wrote in an email.

This year's Summer Bridge will be held June 17 to July 24. Students will attend from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Registration will start March 12 through the school district's student reservation system.

Students must be invited to participate. Schools will notify eligible students in March. Students who have scored below grade level on the FCAT or other assessments will be invited. Superintendent Mike Grego said the district also will ask teachers for recommendations about which students might benefit from summer instruction.

Grego started Summer Bridge last year in the hope of curbing summer learning losses, particularly among struggling students. Officials invited more than 10,000 students or about 10 percent of the district.

The idea was to make the sessions more like summer camp and less like summer school.

Students in elementary and middle school last year participated in hands-on science activities, such as building birdhouses and using dry ice to learn about states of matter. They also used laptops for reading and math.

High school students primarily focused on preparing for the state's Algebra 1 end-of-course exam, which they must pass to graduate. This year's high school program also will include reading and writing.

Results from the first year were mixed, with about half of Pinellas elementary students improving their reading skills, while about 47 percent stayed the same or lost ground. One highlight was in science, where 73 percent of students increased their final test scores compared with their performance at the start of the program.

Grego said district officials have fine-tuned the curriculum based on last year's experience and there will be a greater emphasis on varying instruction for students based on individual needs.

"I see some great things happening," he said.

The cost of this year's program still is unknown because it will depend largely on enrollment. Grego said he thinks it will be reduced, even with an increase in enrollment, because many materials and supplies can be used again.

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at cfitzpatrick@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8846. Follow @Fitz_ly on Twitter.

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