State officials tour HCS summer camps

Monday and Tuesday, Haywood County Schools opened their doors to special guests State Representative Chris Hurt, Senator Page Walley, Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn and members of her staff. Visitors were onsite for a first-hand look at our schools’ summer learning programs.

A direct result of the pandemic, Summer 2020 marked the maiden voyage for Tennessee’s summer learning programs. In Haywood County, all students had the option of extending their school year four additional weeks, in person, five days a week from 8-2 pm June 1 – June 25 with breakfast, lunch and bus transportation included. More than one thousand students, PK3 through twelfth grade, which is nearly forty percent of Haywood’s student population, attended the summer learning program. “Our summer learning camps across the district have been focused on an opportunity to learn and we are seeing a positive impact on our students based off performance and teacher feedback,” said Superintendent Joey Hassell. “Additionally, it was nice to have Representative Hurt, Senator Wally, Commissioner Schwinn, and a number of TDOE staff on our campuses this week to see our amazing staff and students.”

While visiting Anderson Early Childhood Center on Tuesday, Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn took the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with students during her Accelerating TN 2021 Tour, observing first-hand the newly created summer learning programs throughout the state. Here she is pictured with rising first-grader Addie.

This summer, the Tennessee Department of Education launched the Accelerating TN 2021 Tour, a statewide tour spanning 50 school districts to highlight summer learning opportunities. Throughout the three-week tour, Commissioner Schwinn, department staff, state and local elected officials, and community partners will connect directly with students, educators and stakeholders to learn more about how schools are accelerating student achievement.

Haywood County marked the halfway point of their observation tour. When asked about what she’s surveyed to this point, Commissioner Schwinn said, “Every program looks different and I love that because you don’t want them all to look the same; each summer camp reflects the specific flavor of ice cream of that district. It’s been really really neat to see the personalization [of each school] all while having a consistent focus on phonics, on math, and then making sure students feel welcomed and that we’re getting back to a sense of normalcy.”

According to our state’s official website, Tennessee has led the nation in supporting students throughout the pandemic, prioritizing education policy and programs to ensure Tenn. children are set up for success. During the Tennessee General Assembly’s extraordinary legislative session in January, legislators passed the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act which set forward a path for all districts’ current and future summer programming opportunities to benefit students.

Friends at first sight, Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn and Anderson Kindergartener Kathy enjoyed special time together during the Accelerating TN 2021 Tour on Tuesday.

The foundational purpose of this act, according to TN.gov, was this: “Districts have reported significant disruptions to learning experiences for children due to COVID-19 during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. Students have been quarantined; teachers have been quarantined and students have cycled through hybrid schedules and school closures. These challenges have resulted in a lack of continuity of instruction that is predicted to impact some students significantly. As a result, additional summer learning opportunities are essential to accelerate students’ educational growth and ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their goals and dreams.”

Students were not the only beneficiaries of the summer learning programs; HCS teachers garnered an additional $1,200 per week compensation for their participation. 

State Representative Chris Hurt (pictured middle with orange shirt) and State Senator Page Walley (pictured far right in blue shirt) observed STEAM students assembling model cars during their tour at Haywood Middle School.

During the county-wide tour, Rep. Hurt and Sen. Walley toured Sunny Hill Intermediate School. Pictured above: Gina Rawson, Chris Davis, Joey Hassell, Rep. Chris Hurt, Chris McCorkle, Grace Fergie and Nicole Johnson.

Accompanied by Principal Anna Roberts, Rep. Hurt and Sen. Walley visited Mrs. Susan Evans’ class during their tour at Haywood Elementary School.