The Phoenix Hebrew Academy is teaming up with Gesher Disability Resources to combat the “summer slump,” the gap of time between students’ last day of school in the early summer and when they start again the next fall. The leaders of Gesher and PHA suspect it might be more dramatic this year because of COVID-19.
“Students always regress over the course of a 10-week summer,” said Rabbi Yisroel Weiner, head of the Phoenix Hebrew Academy, adding it is “just the nature of the beast.” But with COVID, Weiner said that this summer’s regression would be worse, especially for kids who opted for virtual instruction and for kids with special needs.
The two organizations developed Gesher Day, a weekly summer learning program that began June 17 and runs through Aug 13. Gesher Day serves students with special needs and those without.
PHA had a preexisting relationship with Gesher, which has provided special education services the past seven years.
“It’s been very helpful since Gesher is quite familiar with our students already,” Weiner said.
It’s too soon to say how the program is going, Weiner said. He will assess how much kids have learned at the end of the program, but anticipates providing an expanded summer program — perhaps with more days of learning per week — in the years ahead.
“For those parents who want it, it’s a great way to offer them the ability for the kids not only to stay up to speed with their academics over the course of a long summer, but also put their best foot forward to be prepared for the coming school year as well,” he said.
Jill Wilson, Gesher’s director of education and programs, teaches at PHA. “The kids enjoy working with us,” she said. The program is going “really well and there were smiles on the faces of the students when they came in and smiles on their faces when they went out.” JN
Xander Simmons is an incoming sophomore at Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek and an intern for Jewish News.