By Michelle Levine 


Eight-year-old Nery Monon said he likes summer school at Riverdale Elementary because “it’s making me smarter,” and he gets to see his friends. 

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Nery Monon, 8, uses a combination of online learning platforms and written activities
Photo courtesy of Michelle Levine

Nery and his classmates haven’t been in the same classroom since they were five or six years old and learning the alphabet. 


“I saw my old friend in Kindergarten but that’s the last time I saw him,” Nery said. 


Henry Chaton, a fifth grader who loves reading books and articles on aliens, said that one of the best parts of summer school is getting to play games during P.E. and recess with friends. 


“I can actually play basketball now,” Henry said. 


Students were invited to spend the month of July at nearby schools to participate in Acceleration Academy, the county’s summer program targeting learning loss after the pandemic. Across Prince George’s County, 22 schools opened their doors, including Felegy and Riverdale Elementary. 

Out of the 200 students that were invited to participate at

Riverdale Elementary, about 100 attended every Monday through Thursday, said summer school site coordinator Melissa Moore. While only certain students were invited to participate, they were not required to attend.



“This program is really timely and relevant for the kids as they get ready for the fall,” said Gener Bustos, who teaches third graders during summer school but is a special education teacher during the school year. 


Bustos noticed that using hands-on activities and visuals has been extremely helpful in teaching vocabulary, which is a main target area for summer school. Using these tools was not easily done through a computer screen, making it difficult for English Language Learners (ELLs) to understand concepts such as homonyms. Riverdale’s student body is 68.3% English Learners, according to data reported by the state in 2020. 

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Artwork dries before going home with students. Mr. Henderson encouraged students to use different textures and dimensions for the collage.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Levine

Showing pictures of a word that has two meanings has helped students expand their vocabulary, Bustos said. 


Having electives in-person has been a huge success, said art teacher Alexander Henderson. Each student has their own supply kit complete with markers, glue, oil pastels, a notebook, and clay.   


Now that all the kids are in the same place with the same supplies, they can work together on projects. A fan-favorite was using pipe cleaners to make bumblebees and flowers, Henderson said. 


While there are benefits of being back in-person, Moore said teachers are integrating takeaways from online learning into daily instruction. Teachers are going to continue using online platforms that provide game-based and interactive learning and assessments.

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Second graders lineup, six feet apart, to go to recess Photo courtesy of Michelle Levine

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Riverdale has also partnered with the University of Maryland to provide online tutoring. Students take a desk, laptop, and their materials into the hallway where they have a one-on-one video call with a college student for enhanced learning. 


Incorporating technology is going to be the new normal for students, summer school technology coordinator Sarah Neal explained. Throughout the pandemic, students were taught to turn a familiar toy, such as a tablet, into a learning tool. After all the adaptations of learning how to use these tools, there’s no going back, Neal said. 


“They’re only gonna get better,” Neal said of student’s skills with technology. 

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Itzel Balmes works on her writing assignment using a laptop. Students sit on opposite ends of tables to promote physical distancing. Photo courtesy of Michelle Levine

Second grader Itzel Balmes agreed, saying summer school is fun and that she likes using worksheets and the computer to do math problems. 


Acceleration Academy is a glimpse into what the fall will look like as the rest of Prince George’s County’s students will be welcomed back. Both students and teachers agreed they’re ready for the reunion.