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Thornton charter school now provides buses for summer school

Teachers want to make up for lost classroom time during pandemic.

THORNTON, Colo. — Summer school looks so full at The Pinnacle Charter School in Thornton because the classrooms were so empty during the pandemic.

"That has had a significant impact on so many kids," Farrah Ross, fifth grade teacher, said.

In the midst of quarantines and COVID-19 restrictions, Ross said remote learning could not emulate the effectiveness of learning in the classroom.

"We're hoping that we can make up some of that ground," Ross said.

She hopes it can be made up during a 4-week summer school session. But, in years past, Ross said many students could not attend summer school because they couldn't get there.

"A lot of times it's younger siblings that are, you know, being watched by older siblings and so they don't have transportation if parents are working," Ross said. "So, this has been a great opportunity for our kids that normally haven't been able to attend summer school."

CEO Chad Miller decided to do something never offered before at The Pinnacle Charter School. The school is providing bus service for summer school to eliminate a barrier for families where 80 percent are considered lower income.

"We know their ability to get to school was a challenge," Miller said. "It is during the year as well. We transport half our kids here just on a normal school day. So, I knew transportation was an issue and I wanted there to be equity for these kids to be able to find their way to school."

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He said the lost classroom time has had an significant impact on academic performance.

"When they were home, we just couldn't get them to learn like we do when they're in class," Miller said.

During summer session, students will get back 80 hours of focused, in-person learning, according to Miller, over the extra month-long session. The school offered expanded summer school opportunities. It used to be only kindergarten to fifth grade but this year all K-12 students are allowed to attend. 

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Miller said he expected about 250 students this summer. With the bus option, the program has about 700.

"If we didn't provide transportation, I would say about 250 of these kids would not be able to attend this 4-week summer school," Miller said.

Miller said the summer transportation costs are covered by the school's regular operating budget.

Ross said she's just happy all kids can now get to summer school.

"Being able to provide transportation for our students is just, I mean it's a priority," Ross said.