We are about three weeks from the end of the academic year here in the overly-large school district, and I don’t know anyone who isn’t ready to finish and head into summer break.

Except maybe, district administrators who are planning a huge summer program for “roughly 35,000 students total, making it 10 times larger than Fairfax’s typical summer offerings”, mostly paid by federal COVID relief funds.

And Fairfax is certainly not alone. Every system in the DC area is planning to run tens of thousands of kids through summer programs designed to “recover” all that “lost learning” from the past year. Or something like that.

Anyway, there’s just one small problem: the districts can’t find enough teachers who want to give up their break.

During a summer when both student needs and teacher shortages are high, Arlington and other school districts in the D.C. area are doing what they can to keep school going during the summer. As they recruit educators, they are offering perks such as double pay and $1,000 bonuses — but it remains a challenge, given that teachers are exhausted from an unprecedented, strange and difficult year-plus of work during a public health crisis.

Just a few random thoughts on these summer plans…

First, there are the same few questions from I had a few months back. It’s becoming clear who wants to attend and who will be teaching, but it’s still rather murky as to who gains the greatest benefit from these programs? Still thinking it’s not the kids.

I’m not sure a few weeks of drilling on arithmetic and reading will “recover” the standardized testing numbers that school and district administrators are looking for. And we should be asking if more school is really the best way to address the stress that many students must be feeling after the past fifteen months.

Maybe a better way to spend all those federal funds would be to send kids to camp. Let them spend time doing things other than staring at screens and worksheets. Read books of their own choosing. Play with electronics and Legos. Take classes in music and arts. Something, anything, other than standard academic activities.

More than anything else, what kids and their teachers (and probably their parents as well) really need as we come out of the pandemic, is a good old-fashioned summer break.

One where the emphasis is on learning through play, not weeks of drill and practice.

Fishing on the Potomac would be a great way for kids to spend their summer break. Lots to be learned.