800 from Milwaukee part of 1st-of-its-kind virtual summer school aimed at disrupting COVID-19 'learning loss'

Lillian Evrard

MILWAUKEE -- Making up for lost learning time and offering insight into their educational future, a first-of-its-kind virtual learning summer program in Milwaukee is helping prevent the widening of educational gaps caused by the coronavirus pandemic for students nationwide.

"They have had yoga and dance, as well as the mind-body wellness, as well because it's a stressful time for them," Sarah Evrard said.

Enriching activities help round out the day for Sarah's daughter, Lillian Evrard.

"It makes me feel good," Lillian said.

Lillian Evrard

She's gotten back on track after an abrupt end to the school year in spring. As school buildings closed, her mother was open to alternative options for continued learning.

"This version of virtual schooling has been extremely beneficial in the increase in teacher participation," said Evrard. "It feels a lot more like normal school for the kids. and the level that they are working at is much more similar to what they would actually be accomplishing in school."

City Forward Collective connected more than 800 students and educators from Milwaukee with the national summer school initiative.

"Learning is a journey that needs to proceed in a linear fashion, and when it's interrupted, children may never recover from the learning loss," said Chris Cerf.

Chris Cerf

Cerf, a co-founder of the initiative, says he felt the program was necessary.

The 4-hour school day is comprised of class sessions taught by a mentor teacher. Then, the work is broken down by local partner teachers who work with students in smaller groups.

"There is a dimension of school that involves sharing, collaboration, fostering curiosity, managing conflict and that really personal connection between teacher and student that gives them a safe place to grow into themselves," Cerf said.

That helps contribute to the success of students like Lillian.

"I feel more confident," said Lillian. "I'm guessing that it's probably going to look more like that, so I have a head start. I'm ready for fall."