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It is not uncommon for some K-12 students to lose skills they achieved during the school year over the summer, particularly if they do not have access to reliable internet connectivity and/or lack access to high quality educational summer programming. This results in a ‘gap’ in abilities between students who arrive in the new academic year having had access to these summer opportunities and services and those who have not. The impact of the early dismissal of in-school learning due to COVID-19 this spring has essentially added an additional three-month ‘summer’ of limited access for some students, during which the achievement gap could magnify, deepening urban/rural, racial, and income disparities in education.

We aim to develop high quality STEM-based educational strategies to minimize the achievement gap for rural Virginia students upon return to in-class instruction. Our goal is to design not only the educational experiences for the targeted students, but also unique modes of delivery and assessment. We view this effort, though initially motivated by the pandemic, as an opportunity to build an interdisciplinary working group that can continue to develop such programming in future summers to close the achievement gap for underserved Virginia students.