COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Several weeks after the final dismissal bell of the 2020-2021 school year, Columbus City Schools welcomed thousands of students back to the classroom.

“We want everybody to have fun as well as learn,” said Geron Tate, a building administrator at Columbus Spanish Immersion Academy. “But really [we want to] try to close that gap because we lost a lot during virtual learning.”

Monday, more than 8,100 students were registered for the district’s Summer Experience as the program kicked off. In the final months of the spring term, CCS encouraged families to sign up for the summer learning program to compensate for experiences and skills lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of our students were at home with just a computer. So to be able to connect with their peers, to connect with the staff and to again dive in and feel like school again, things are normal — yeah, most definitely needed,” said Jeri Hensley, the coordinator for the CCS Summer Experience program.

12 elementary schools, 7 middle schools and 4 high schools reopened Monday for the return of students. Some of the time during Summer Experience will be spent covering traditional academic topics. Staff explained, however, the program’s hands-on opportunities separate it from traditional summer school.

“Normally you’re just stuck in a building all day,” Tate said. “But Columbus City [Schools] has done a great job calling it the ‘Experience’ because that’s exactly what it is.”

Hensley added, “Every school gets to participate with a field trip or with a virtual visit and feel like, ‘Hey, this is what it used to feel like when we were in school.”

Hitting CCS academic standards will be the goal for all students, but each age group will approach learning in slightly different manners.

Elementary school aged children will participate in “summer camp” like activities, inspired by COSI. CCS says it will strengthen students’ academic skills, leadership, and social-emotional learning through problem-solving and project-based learning, team building activities, and theme-based design challenges.

Middle school students will work collaboratively with peers and staff at seven school sites across the city. Campers will use design-thinking strategies to solve real-world problems.

Older students in high school will prioritize covering lost credits in order to graduate. The district is offering face-to-face courses with an interdisciplinary, community issue focus.

Staff explained the academic catch-up is important, but many CCS families also rely on school as a place for meals, as well as a safe, supervised outlet with positive role models.

“To help build and rebuild the learning, the experience, that is why it’s really important,” Hensley said. “Technology is great. But to have that face-to-face, hands-on and communication, dialogue going on — that’s key.”

The district is also offering several vaccine clinics for both the CCS community, as well as the general public. All clinics are first come, first served. The district will provide transportation to students enrolled in Summer Experience if they have the proper consent from a parent or guardian. Other children ages 12-17 will need to be accompanied by an adult.

The vaccine clinic is happening at the following locations/times:

  • Africentric Early College High School: Thursday, June 17 7:30am – 1:30pm
  • Linden McKinley STEM: Thursday, June 17 1pm – 7pm
  • South High School: Friday, June 18 7:30am – 1:30pm
  • West High School: Friday, June 18 1pm – 7pm

Learn more about the Summer Experience by clicking here.