VASD Summer School 2018 file art

From left, Eleanor Steger, a fourth-grader at Sugar Creek Elementary, and Reese Manning, a fifth-grader at Country View Elementary, paint the scenes in their aquarium jars during a summer school session in 2018. The district will hold all summer school classes online this year because of COVID-19 concerns.

Verona Area School District students will still be able to create stop motion animation movies, conduct science experiments and learn how to live on Mars during summer school this year – just from a distance.

The district has moved all of its summer school courses to online this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, student services supervisor Amy Tranel told the Press. To limit the spread of the disease, Gov. Tony Evers and state Department of Health Services secretary-designee Andrea Palm ordered schools to close for the last two months, and an extension of the “Safer at Home” order prohibited schools from holding in-person class through at least July 1.

“The coronavirus kind of changed a lot of our plans – we were obviously looking forward to having an in-school possibility for our students,” she said. “That’s kind of a shift, but our teachers are getting so much better at virtual learning now that they’ve been doing it the last several months.”

Elementary and middle school summer school classes are more heavily impacted, Tranel said, as many of the high school’s were already online.

Part of the conversation surrounding what summer school would look like for elementary and middle school students was around the number of sessions provided, Tranel said. Staff debated whether to keep the same summer school schedule of two three-week sessions starting in July, deciding a third would be beneficial for students.

The reasoning behind the additional session, Tranel said, is the longer summer that students will have this year. Because of renovation work on three district buildings planned for this year as the district prepares to shift six of its 11 sites, school will end three weeks earlier than usual at the end of May.

“We felt like all of June, all of July, all of August, was a really long time for our kids, and especially now, in this very unique situation, wanting to offer as much as we could,” she said.

When parents sign their students up for classes, it’ll be a three-class bundle for each session, Tranel said, with one class taking place each week of the session. If students do all three sessions, that’s a total of nine potential classes they have the ability to take.

To make three sessions work, Tranel said she went to the elementary school teachers to see if three sessions was something they’d be interested in –and they were all for it.

The move to online schooling is exciting for some of the district’s teachers, Tranel said.

With everything being virtual, some technology information teachers are taking the opportunity to create new summer school classes involving makerspaces, engineering and design that can be done more easily via technology than in person.

As elementary school teachers signed on, the challenge became taking the summer school classes that were already being planned in-person, and transitioning them to a virtual platform.

Most of the in-person classes have been able to be translated to being online, Tranel said, but there will be instances where the district will have to assist families with acquiring materials where it’s needed.

“That does mean we might have to send out a few supplies or resources to people, but in general, we were able to take what we did have and offer it virtually,” she said. “We don’t want that to be a barrier.”

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.