EducationHamil R. HarrisLocal

Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer? For Many, It’s a COVID–Tinged Hybrid Summer

Enrich? Catch Up? Classrooms Beckon

Not since June 2019 has the end of the school year signaled a summerlong break from the drudgery of classroom attendance and a respite that includes sleeping in, dawdling and maybe even a family vacation.

For the past 15 months, life and learning for thousands of young people have been filtered through Zoom and Google Classroom while government officials struggle to vaccinate as well as educate in hopes that the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic are past while so many parents are skeptical about even taking a vaccine.

So just what are students doing this summer and how are they feeling in a crazy masked world of vaccinations, medical mandates and socially distancing during everything from graduation programs to church.

“It is not hard to find something to do if you want to do it, ” said Ashley Anderson, 14, a rising sophomore at Charles Herbert Flowers High School. “I’m thinking about checking out the UniverSoul Circus.”

The pandemic, though muted, is still with us, Angela Anderson, Ashley’s mother, pointed out to a reporter, insisting that her daughter spend her June, July and August in cautious pursuits. “Because of COVID we still have to be cautious and use wisdom. We are not completely out of the woods.”

Once a week, Jason Henderson, a physical therapist in Southeast, meets with a group of autistic elementary school students to conduct martial arts training. Henderson made a documentary entitled, “I AM A Martial Autist.”

“It is important for our community to reach out and share love,” Henderson said. “Every beautiful black child in here deserves our love. So, when we see kids being diagnosed, called dumb, called stupid, call retarded, the community has to change the way we see our babies.”

At Camp WaMaVa, students from across the District, Maryland and Virginia arrive every Sunday afternoon for a five-week session of swimming, arts and crafts and religion at the Linden, Va. facility.

“We are in full compliance with the COVID rules and we will be able to accommodate any kid who wants to come out here, ” said Joe Dunlap, director of the Church of Christ camp.

Still, for Keith and Kevin Marks this won’t be a traditional summer. Both are students at Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts who will spend this summer in academic enrichment, not sleep-over camp, according to their mother, Nikki Marks.

“It has been a tough school year online. This is an opportunity for them to catch up, ” Marks said. “Keith is taking art and Kevin is taking English.”

“I wouldn’t say that classes were harder, but the biggest challenge was keeping on top of your work because my brother and I sat at a table at home instead of attending different classes.”

Keith, who loves to sing, plans to be a music producer. “I want to be a music producer and if that means sacrificing summer vacations and camps, it is worth it.”

Nikki Marks, whose husband is a truck driver, said that it has been hard dealing with the pandemic and keeping the students motivated but noted that her religious faith helps. “Since our sons were learning at home, I have seen first-hand what teachers have to go through.”

“One thing we try to do is communicate, encourage and just check in and not just the academics, looking at them as a whole person, ” said Alison Prince, a pupil personnel worker in the Montgomery County school system. “The last 15 months has been stressful for everyone. People have no idea.”

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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