Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Toby Grubbs and Dallas Owen work on “eye spy bottles” during a summer program at Olympic View Elementary in Oak Harbor.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times Toby Grubbs and Dallas Owen work on “eye spy bottles” during a summer program at Olympic View Elementary in Oak Harbor.

Summer school focuses on fun activities, social education

Oak Harbor summer school students can learn karate, take magic lessons and taste garden greens.

Summer school looks a lot more fun in Oak Harbor this year as students can learn karate, take magic lessons and taste greens plucked from the garden.

It’s not summer school in the traditional sense — students are not cooped up in a classroom during the hottest months of the year. Instead, the focus is on helping kids to re-engage with their peers after almost two years of distance learning. Liz Ritz, the school district’s teaching and learning director, said her goal is to help students with social and emotional learning.

“It’s the plate that everything sits on,” Ritz said.

Oak Harbor Public Schools has spent $32,000 of a grant it received from the Whidbey Community Foundation, and almost $200,000 of federal CARES Act funds to find ways to bridge the gap many of its 5,650 students face returning to class. The school district has offered multiple free summer camps and activities to bring students together.

There are 662 students attending summer enrichment camps hosted at the schools, 1,064 students involved in one of the sports programs and about 650 involved in one of the community partnership programs.

Students can learn how to work around horses at a local farm or join a barbershop quartet organized by a music store or get moving with a dance company.

Some activities still have space available and more information can be found on the school district’s website. All activities are free, but students will need to bring some materials.

Carlene Ogden, who taught third grade last year and is leading the district’s summer programs, emphasized the importance of social and emotional learning.

“If they’re not ready and they can’t tell us what’s wrong, it makes it that much harder to learn reading and math,” she explained.

She said there will be some catch-up work students will need to do in the fall, but she said she was not particularly worried about it.

“There’s going to be some areas we are going to need to work on, but we do that every year,” she said, adding that teachers often help students from Navy families adjust after moving to a new school in the middle of the term.

Staff will also have a chance to work on social and emotional learning along with equity and instructional skills. Almost 300 teachers have signed up for a new three-day conference to prepare for the fall, Ritz said.

Both Ogden and Ritz said they have noticed the resiliency the students have shown over the past two years of distance learning.

They agreed that they have already seen some changes in students as they have been around their peers this summer.

“Maybe before COVID we took some things for granted,” Ritz said of learning in groups. “Now we have a newfound appreciation for school and being together.”

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Incoming second-graders learned the wonders of gravity using parachuts during one of the Oak Harbor school district’s summer programs at Olympic View Elementary on Wednesday.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times Incoming second-graders learned the wonders of gravity using parachuts during one of the Oak Harbor school district’s summer programs at Olympic View Elementary on Wednesday.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Incoming first grade students got a taste of gardening by sampling borage flowers during a summer learning program at Olympic View Elementary in Oak Harbor on Wednesday.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times Incoming first grade students got a taste of gardening by sampling borage flowers during a summer learning program at Olympic View Elementary in Oak Harbor on Wednesday.

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