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Miller Middle School in Marshalltown offers "Saturday School" for kids learning virtually

The program launch last month gives kids the opportunity to interact with teachers one-on-one and in-person.

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — After the pandemic hit, some students at Miller Middle School in Marshalltown went to a totally virtual learning format. That meant little to no in-person contact with other students or teachers.

While the virtual learning option helped keep students and their families safe, it meant some students started to fall behind.  To address the issue, Dave Glenn and Kristyn Kell, co-principals at the middle school, came up with an idea to open up time for virtual learners to come on campus three times a week, including Saturday.

"One thing that we kind of noticed some of our virtual students were struggling just with missing that one-on-one contact.  We know that's so important in our student's education," said Kell.

Attendance at the sessions is voluntary. Kids can stop by to just work on homework or to sit down with a teacher to get some help. If kids don't have a way to get there, the school has a plan to pick them up.

Math teacher Kathy Cox has been coming in every Saturday to spend time with the students.

"If they’re willing to give up their time, then, I should be willing to give up mine," Cox said.

Middle-schooler McKenna Hainline spent a few hours at school on Saturday completing her assignments. She's been going to school virtually this past semester but will move to the hybrid model next week.

"I like the routine…getting up and getting ready for school," she said.

Even though the program is just a few weeks old, administrators have already seen students make progress. "Some kids vastly improve where they're at just by coming in on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturdays," said Kell.

That improvement has been due, in part, to just because knowing someone is around to help.

"A lot of our students who come in for our help sessions just want to work where someone is. They want to work where, if they get stuck, they know there is someone there to help them," said Glenn.

The program will soon open up to students who are on the hybrid model.  Administrators also hope the program outlasts the pandemic.

"A lot time people think Saturday school is a consequence. For us, this isn’t a consequence; it's actually a bonus," said Kell.

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