HISD summer school helps students re-engage after virtual learning stint

Incoming seventh grader, Kirsten Aparicio, believes in-person learning at Ortiz Middle School has been the key to her success this summer.

After learning online since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the 12-year old finally returned to the classroom in June for summer school.

An avid reader, Kirsten said she now feels prepared for the seventh grade and ready to break out of her shell.

“When I came back, it’s like the old me again, and I’m making good grades,” she said.

Kirsten is just one such HISD student who found virtual learning challenging at times. As the district prepares to return to full classroom instruction in the coming school year, many schools are seeing increased enrollment in summer school. Students—and their parents—are trying to close the learning gap created by a year of virtual instruction.

“It’s better because I get to connect with the teacher in person if I have any questions or don’t understand,” she said. “It was harder to learn math during virtual, and now it’s like finally I’m back on track.”

Ortiz Middle School, a Magnet campus for the Performing and Visual Arts, offers a wide variety of programs like Band, Mariachi, Dance, Choir, and Theatre Arts. The aspiring actress is excited to take part in many of the programs, particularly theatre arts, saying “it’s fun to see the story behind a character and how they develop.”

Ortiz Teacher Specialist Tina Garcia says the change in Kirsten is evident, even in just the three short weeks since summer school began.

“She’s really thrived during summer school,” Garcia said. “It’s great to see her here improving her grades and getting excited for next year.”

The last of her family to attend Ortiz, Kristen said she was excited to attend school in person and finally see what her older siblings had been talking about.

“My brothers came here and told me that I was missing out on a lot of good stuff, like making friends and talking to people,” said Aparicio. “I’m not really sure what to expect next year, but I’m really trying to be the best I can be to graduate and be somebody.”