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Summer school got cut? Kids can still learn.

Online courses, new day camps, and tapping stimulus funds are ways to minimize 'learning loss.'

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With apologies to Gershwin: Summertime ... and the learnin' ain't easy.

Educators and parents always try to minimize "learning loss" during the lazy days of summer. But this year, dire budget scenarios make it especially challenging. Some school districts have canceled summer school altogether, while others have reduced the slots available for academic and enrichment activities.

The good news is, tough times beget creative solutions: online courses, schools pairing with community groups to sponsor day camps, and districts tapping federal stimulus funds to keep summer school going.

"It is going to take entire communities coming together to figure out ways to keep kids healthy, safe, and learning during the summer months," says Ron Fairchild, executive director of the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

For students struggling to catch up in reading and math, the loss of summer school doesn't bode well. A recent Johns Hopkins study found that 65 percent of the academic gaps between low-income ninth-graders and their peers can be attributed to unequal summer learning opportunities during the elementary grades.

"The kids who desperately need these opportunities ... are going to experience tremendous setbacks this summer," Mr. Fairchild says. Districts making cuts may save money now, he says, "but in essence they are incurring a huge debt in terms of the interventions that will be required later."

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