Williston to Consider Summer Academic Courses


Credit: Williston.com.

With much of the usual coursework being cut due to remote learning, Williston is considering offering summer school courses to students.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Williston, like many other independent schools across the country, was forced to abruptly move their classrooms online and all of the school’s usual summer programs were forced to cancel. In response, Williston is opting to offer summer classes to replace the missed activities.

On April 27, Peter Valine, Williston’s Dean of Faculty, sent out an inquiry email to all teachers.  The email specified that the school was interested in offering, “online summer learning activates,” due to the lack of other options for students in the summer of 2020.

Valine first began discussing the idea during an administrative meeting regarding the mounting summer camp and travel cancellations for Williston students.

“We were having an admin meeting and one of the comments what was made was, you know, with this different summer in front of us there’s going to be less opportunities for junior high and high school students to do the things they typically do during the summer,” he said. “There was an observation made that with this different summer might there be an opportunity to offer some enrichment classes?”

Though the program is new this summer, Valine says summer courses have always been in discussion at Williston.

“I think it’s also been something that Williston has been talking about for a couple of years now,” he stated. “We have typically used our campus for sports camps primarily, and I think there’s been some interest in trying to transition for a little bit more academically-oriented programs.”

Williston’s summer course offerings are still very much in the beginning stages of development, so students are still fairly on the fence about whether or not they will partake in the program. Many however share similar perspectives on what they envision the program to be.

Diana Yaseen, a freshman at Williston from Shelburne Falls, Mass, believes the summer courses should count as  graduation credits.

“I think we should be able to take classes to knock out some credits,” she told The Willistonian. “For students who aren’t interested in certain topics, they can get those credits out of the way and then focus on what they really care about in school.”

Many colleges are offering for-credit courses to students over the summer with an additional cost for each credit. “Cornell’s summer online classes are regular, credit bearing Cornell courses,” according to Cornell University.

Valine acknowledged graduation credit was a highly requested aspect of the program. However, due to the platform and time frame, he does not believe credits will be offered for summer courses.

“I don’t believe that they’re going to be for-credit courses,” he stated. “The classes are only going to run four weeks, so, you know, to be able to put a full year of pre-calc in a four week program online is not going to work.”

He predicts the courses offered will be, “more prep and enrichment,” and individual teachers will decide what courses they would like to offer.

Noel Song, a junior at Williston from Shanghai, China, is interested in the possibility of different elective courses.

“I’d probably take it if it’s an elective … like astronomy or forensics.” Noel stated.

However, some students also want to take advantage of the traditional summer break experience. While they may be interested in some of the topics offered, they also want summer to be a more self-directed time.

Lexi Paez, A Williston freshman from West Springfield, Mass, is still on the fence about taking classes over the summer.

“It’s just it’s summer and I want to focus on my own stuff, but maybe next week when they have options, I could have an answer,” she said.

In the United States, 48 states have come out in support of cancelling the in-person school year due to Covid-19 concerns; Montana and Wyoming are the only outliers according to CNN. Many states have mandated closure while others have strong recommendations.

Many colleges and K-12 schools all across America are also beginning to look towards summer as an opportunity to make up for lost time. Los Angeles plans to revive their summer school system, previously sidelined due to budget cuts.

Austin Beutner, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, plans to make summer school available to all students following the normal academic year.

“Our plan remains to finish the school year with online instruction and offer summer school to every student,” Beutner told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve made no decisions about the opening of school facilities by [Aug. 18] and will not until the science and health authorities tell us it is safe and appropriate to do so.”