Northland districts see more interest in summer school

04/07/2014 8:32 AM

04/07/2014 8:32 AM

Northland districts say this year school won’t necessarily be out out for summer.

The districts have seen a growing interest in their free summer education opportunities in recent years, with more families choosing to send their students back to the classroom during the traditional break.

Parental feedback was one of the factors that spurred the Park Hill School District to change this year from half-day to full-day summer school for its kindergarten through eighth grade students. High school students will continue to have a half-day program.

Stephanie Amaya, the district’s summer school coordinator, said the Park Hill School District has partnered with the educational company Catapult Learning for a state-funded, full-day summer school that includes both academic and exploratory learning opportunities.

“It’s huge for our parents because they’ve been asking for a long time,” she said.

She said parents in the district were attracted to the full-day program because besides providing additional academic instruction, it lets students stay connected to their school and gives them a place to spend summer break.

“When you think of a part-time program it really caters to parents who can pick their children up in the middle of the day, so lots of staff have been advocating that it will only help our kids,” Amaya said of the move to a full-day program.

Students will spend their mornings on academics and their afternoons taking more exploratory classes.

“Although it’s an academic focused program there’s also that fun built in the afternoon,” she said. “They might create a rocket ship. They might look at pulley distribution and water. There’s all kinds of really cool classes that are offered.”

Liberty Public Schools takes a similar approach by providing a summer school program for kindergarten through eighth grade students with course work in core subject areas such as math and reading in the morning followed by electives in the afternoon.

According to Christopher Hand, director of assessment, evaluation and testing, many of the electives offered — including chess and checkers — incorporate critical thinking and problem solving skills.

“It’s really about the balance of the whole child and that we’re in education because the student is our customer and we want them to soar and excel within our environment,” he said. “That’s why we created time in the summer where they are really gaining momentum for the next year.”

The district has been offering a full-day program for approximately 15 years.

“Our summer school numbers have grown each year,” he said. “We started with only 700 kids 15 years ago to last year I believe we were almost up to 4,300 to 4,400.”

For high school students, the district offers a morning and afternoon session.

Summer school is also a popular choice in the North Kansas City School District.

Jill Hackett, the district’s assistant superintendent for academic services and school accountability, estimates that 42 percent of the district’s students participate in summer school programs. Fifty-five percent of elementary students attend summer school.

Summer school education is offered in every school in the district for six hours a day. Hackett said providing an opportunity for students to continue their education in the summer months helps the district avoid what many call the summer slump — academic regression when the student is away from school for several months.

“We find that it’s very helpful for those students to have continuous opportunities to learn throughout the summer,” she said. “Some just need a little extra time, additional time, to attend to skills they may not have experienced with a great deal of success, so now they have more time in the summer.”

The North Kansas City School District spent $1,421,056 on summer school in 2013 but based on enrollment, the state reimbursed the full cost last year, said Paul Harrell, the district’s chief financial officer.

Although there are still a few months left in the traditional school year, school district officials said it’s already time for parents to be thinking about how their student will spend their summer.

Liberty Public Schools offers free busing to its program for students registered before April 6. The Park Hill School District will collect enrollment through April 25 before deciding whether to continue enrollment or cap the program. Enrollment for the North Kansas City School District typically occurs in April and May.

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