PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The “summer slide” is always a concern for families and educators, but especially after a full school year of hybrid learning during a pandemic. Many administrators and teachers say there is no need to worry if families take advantage of learning programs. Schools and local organizations have game plans that stretch far beyond your typical summer school, and it’s all free.

“What we said for this summer is, ‘What can we do additionally that we might not have been able to do before, because of the way that we’ve had virtual learning?'” said Dr. Kelli Cedo, the K-12 English Language Arts Curriculum Lead at Hampton City Schools.

Dr. Cedo said in addition to the schools’ e-reading programs that provide thousands of books to students of all ages, Hampton middle schoolers can join in a summer reading, Zoom gaming program.

“They’re getting these emojis and bitmojis they get to create, and in the end, they will have their own visual that they put together from all of their experience, and so, kind of like a digital locker, but instead, it’s the digital facilitation of their book. The kids are really excited about that part. When we brought that up, like, ‘You’ll be able to digitize what you’re doing with the book through pulling all these little emojis and things like that,’ and they’re like, ‘That’s so cool!'”

Dr. Cedo said teachers will facilitate a Zoom book club, and the students can join in with conversation and a craft that accompanies the book. She said the school division purchased the craft kits, so there will be no cost to students who sign up. All students will also be taking their Chromebooks home for the summer.

“We want to make sure through the lens of equity that we don’t have to worry about anyone, no matter what part of the division they’re in, that they have what they need. We also know that in regular times there is summer slide, and we know that for students in lower socio-economic status, that it’s typically more likely for them to slide,” said Dr. Cedo.

She is especially excited about a free book distribution Hampton City Schools set up for all students at the Kroger off Mercury Boulevard. She says school staff will be there on June 15, from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. handing out free books. Students will be able to select two books, while supplies last.

“We have worked with partners in Hampton to collect tons of books. So, we have brand new books that have been donated through just different partnerships,” said Dr. Cedo.

There are also a number of reading opportunities for high schoolers.

“For high school, our teacher librarians have ensured that through their e-book platforms, that students have acccess. So, our 9th through 12th grade also will have access to books all summer long through that. We collaborate Pre-K through 12th grade, also with the Hampton Public Library.”

“We’ll be doing six weeks of in person, outdoor programming, as well as some virtual opportunities, and we’ll be giving away lots of great prizes as well,” said Olivia Hasan, Children’s Librarian at the Hampton Public Library.

Hasan says the library program involves three levels of reading: picture book readers, chapter book readers, and teen readers. All you have to do is register.

“You can register yourself or your family and you’ll be able to read all summer long, and then this will get you earning badges and prizes along the way, and we’ll be doing raffles every two weeks.”

To qualify for raffles and prizes, you just have to log the books you read into a program called Beanstack.

“Picture book readers have to read at least five books per week. Chapter book readers are two books per week, and our teens have to read at least one book per week, and this could be anything of your choice,” said Hasan.

Fitness is also a big focus.

In Virginia Beach, Alan Rogers of the Great Neck Rec Center recommends your family checks out the Fitness Station Trail at Mount Trashmore.

“There’s strength equipment. There’s cardio-based equipment. There’s also actually balanced-based equipment and agility,” said Rogers.

He emphasizes the ease in which you can get your whole family involved.

“There are definitely plaques on each one of those (pieces of equipment) as well to indicate how to use the equipment. There’s usually multiple ways to use a dip bar for example, and step ups, and sort of things like that. It’s a good family place to do things, too.”

In between workouts, Virginia Beach City Public School students can use their Chromebooks all summer for reading, math, art, and more! There is even a special treat for July.

“We decided last year we would develop an asynchronous, which is a video lesson website, and we would include, from Pre-K – 5 for Virginia Beach City Public School Students, they could log in with their Virginia Beach licensed credentials that all of our students have, and each week throughout the month of July, watch one of our fabulous teachers teaching a literacy or numeracy lesson. So, they got a really rigorous and developmentally appropriate lesson taught by one of our own teachers each week for math and reading through the month of July, and we are continuing that this year. Each of those lessons are accompanied by a parent video. So, the teacher also makes a video for the parents so that they understand how they might extend a lesson at home or support it or practice those skills throughout the week once their child is done engaging in the lesson,” said Danielle Colucci, Executive Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning at Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

Colucci says there are a number of free resources available for students when they use their Virginia Beach log in credentials.

“Such as Achieve 3000 that the division has purchased for us to use. That is for 3rd-5th graders, and they can engage in a differentiated reading article that asks them questions, and it works with them on their level. Then, Smarty Ants is for our Kindergarten through 2nd grade students, and it works more on phonics and phonemic awareness skills that children need. We also have Red Bird, which is a differentiated math program that goes with the student’s success. So, if it needs to back a student up and review a skill, it will, or it will challenge a student. Those will all be available through the summer as well and a child can do as much or as little as they want. We’ve also posted free resources on our website for any child, not just Virginia Beach City Public Schools, with some suggestions of appropriate activities that they could do at home over the summer with their child.”

It’s all to make sure your child avoids the summer slide and continues to climb.

“If you engage your child in reading and learning experiences over the summer, children can make gains, and so that’s why it’s really important not to overthink it, not to think you need something fancy or you need to go out and buy a lot of stuff. Reading is the number one thing you can do with your child, even if you’re reading to your child,” said Colucci.

Spokespeople for schools around Hampton Roads and North Carolina all say they have online programs, and in some cases in-person programs, throughout the summer. Remember, it’s all free. They also say they are sending that information directly to parents through emails and flyers.

To learn more about programs through schools in in your city, click here.