Reopening schools is easy. How do students catch up?

The most immediate and widespread answer is summer school. “It is our next and best opportunity to reconnect kids with their school community,” Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, who was the superintendent of Denver Public Schools before entering Congress, said. “This is one of the last windows we have to help [students] readjust and reacclimate so that we put them in the strongest possible position to return to class this fall.”

Most districts offer some form of summer school, but this year will be different. In Columbus, Ohio, for example, the district’s summer program usually serves 4,000 students. It’s expecting 10,000, which is roughly one out of every five students, Talisa Dixon, the superintendent, told me. The district is partnering with local colleges to bring in student teachers to keep up with the need and ensure that students learn in small groups. San Antonio’s Northside district is also preparing for an influx of thousands more students this summer; it has set aside $14 million—$10 million more than in a typical year—and has plans to add three weeks. Atlanta Public Schools has budgeted $15 million for 20,000 students to attend summer courses for four weeks, 10,000 more students than would ordinarily attend…

Some districts are also extending the school year by several weeks. But many superintendents are concerned about the toll the past year has taken on teachers. “They’ve been doing a great job, but they are just exhausted,” Dixon told me. That’s why districts are looking to hire additional staff for the summer, so that their regular teachers have time to rest. Beyond extra teachers, Woods believes that districts also need to pay summer staff more than they have in the past, because they’re being asked to meet such a huge need.