The summer school program is designed to offer flexibility to teachers, as well as helping struggling students. Photo by John Chadwell.
San Benito High School. Photo by John Chadwell.

Caressa Alvarez, summer school principal, and Kevin Medeiros, summer school assistant principal and migrant summer school lead, reported to the San Benito High School District Board of Trustees on May 11, previewing the 2021 school and migrant education summer programs. The summer programs’ primary focus, Alvarez said, is to provide instruction of students with failing grades and enable students to earn credits toward a diploma.

Alvarez said when talks began about summer school it became obvious that with the enormous amount of Fs needing to be mitigated, it was important to offer flexibility to teachers, as well as tossing a “lifeline to our students who have been struggling.”

“I am hoping our students will take advantage of what we’re offering them,” she said. “We will have the in-person option and remote option. We will offer teachers a $1,000 stipend to come face-to-face and do the in-person teaching because it’s time we get back into the school building. Students need a teacher in front of them.”

Under the state’s Assembly and Senate Bill 86, schools can earn a share of $2 billion in state incentive money if they reopened for in-person instruction by April 1. 

Adam Breen, SBHS community relations officer, told BenitoLink, “Those who choose to teach in-person summer school this year are eligible for a $500 stipend for each three-week semester they teach (up to $1,000 if they teach both three-week semesters) on top of their salary for teaching summer school, which is paid at an hourly rate. Teachers who teach remote-only classes will receive their hourly salary, but not the additional stipend.”

Breen said the stipends are paid through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund, established as part of the Educational Stabilization Fund in the CARES Act.

Diego Ochoa, superintendent of Hollister School District, said the district is also offering $1,000 stipends for summer school positions. 

“We are funding this out of our additional state COVID dollars,” he said. “We plan to have 1,500 kids (close to 30% of all HSD students) attend summer school. Doing so requires having enough teachers and staff to open our classrooms.”

He went on to say that In a typical year, HSD only hires teachers for programs called ESY (Extended School Year) and Migrant Ed Summer School and that it is common to have about 40 teachers work. 

“This year, we will have 100 teachers working summer school. All sites will implement a summer program,” he said.

Alvarez said offering a stipend is part of an effort to get as many teachers on campus as possible. She said the work hours will be typical of past in-person teaching hours, with the only difference being that students will be separated into two groups, A and B, because of COVID restrictions.

“We’re encouraging teachers to ease students back into this,” she said. “We need to set our kids up for success and we need for kids to feel hope and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

The schedule for in-person teaching will be 8:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. for Group A; 10:30 a.m.-11 a.m. for cleaning; and 11 a.m.-1 p.m. for Group B.

Regarding absences, Alvarez said she is asking teachers to be flexible to give students every opportunity to recover their credits.

“We would hate to turn a kid away who could have potentially passed,” she said. “Technically, the attendance policy will be there, but I will absolutely bend the rules for the benefit of the student. This is for the kids, to support them and not be punitive.”

The remote class sizes will be 28-30 students per session. Students will have the option to attend classes during the day, from 8 a.m.-11 a.m., or night, from 5 p.m.-8 p.m., or both. Teachers will check in with students twice a week on Zoom, by phone or email, and will create logs of verified meetings. Students must exit the programs as soon as they are finished. 

She said there will no longer be remote teaching using Zoom. Instead, an online platform called Edgenuity will be used to allow students to work through more credits. Teachers would be responsible for motivating students to work through the curriculum, provide guidance as needed, reach out to support staff and parents if progress is not being made, and approve course progress so students can move through the self-paced curriculum.

The primary challenge of in-person classes, she reiterated, is to mitigate the number of Fs.

“We really need to get our most at-risk kids on campus,” she said. “We’re working hard to come up with ways to get them in the doors. Teachers will get a bit of a break, but we’re also offering a way for students to regain their credits.”

Medeiros said the migrant summer school program will be offered in the evenings. He said it has been hard to find teachers willing to teach at night and identify which students want to be on campus or online.

“We’re going to be able to offer eight courses,” he said. “One of those courses is Culinary 1 that will be on campus. We’re also offering an academy class for the students who are taking classes during the day and they need extra support.”

The migrant summer school on-campus schedule for English classes is Monday thru Thursday, 6:30 p.m-7:45 p.m. and 8 p.m.-9:10 p.m. For off-campus via Zoom, it’s 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. and 8:15 p.m–9:10 p.m.


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John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...