Summer school picks up steam to fight summer brain drain

12/31/1840 7:00 PM

06/03/2014 2:23 PM

The scourge of Summer Brain Drain is under full assault.

Not since the heady days a decade ago when Missouri briefly doubled the state per-student funding for summer school have so many children poured into summer school programming.

There are 7,000-plus and counting enrolled in Kansas City Public Schools’ programs.

More than 7,000 and counting in the Independence School District.

North Kansas City has its “Summer XLT.”

“Camp Invention” is rolling in Grandview.

Park Hill is offering full-day summer school and providing transportation for the first time.

And so on, and so on…

Topping Elementary School Principal Dana Miller in North Kansas City turns her Kia Soul into a personal bookmobile and promises to let students who maintain their tested reading level plunge her into a water tank next fall.

All in the name of keeping kids’ brains firing over the summer.

Typically, Miller said, about 40 percent of the students had regressed in their reading levels by the time they returned from the break.

Last year, the first year she broke out her bookmobile and accompanying water tank promise, that dropped to 31 percent, she said.

But now that the kids witnessed the joy of punching the water tank’s red button, the popularity of the principal’s summer reading program has ballooned.

They’re all talking about running out to Miller’s “Reading with Heart from the Soul” bookmobile when she makes her rounds among the schools’ major apartment and housing complexes.

“They all want to push that button,” Miller said. “I would love it if less than 10 percent regressed this summer.”

Kansas City Public Schools is uniting with a host of partners to expand on its credit recovery and remediation classrooms, kindergarten boot camp and sixth-grade Summer Bridge.

The Friends of Alvin Ailey dance program, Boys and Girls Club, Freedom Schools, the Upper Room tutoring program, the Local Investment Commission and other partners are working with the district this summer.

“The summer is taking on the shape … of a collaborative,” Kansas City Superintendent Steve Green. “It’s a synergy of different groups.”

The partners will be picking up the district’s math and English language arts curriculum and will be taking pre- and post tests, with principals visiting the sites.

“This is our extended school,” Green said. “This becomes a year-round school model for us.”

Summer school is giving Independence an opportunity to emphasize technology use and digital citizenship, said Superintendent Dale Herl.

“We want to carry it over into the school year,” he said, “and reduce the summer learning loss.”

It’s not just that school districts want more kids in summer classrooms. Parents have to want it, too.

The programs are voluntary. Even the credit recovery and remedial courses can be offered only with strong recommendations.

Parents are getting the message about summer loss and want to keep their children from slipping, said Grandview’s head of summer programming, Prissy LeMay.

“We are getting more than last year,” she said of Grandview’s enrollment. “Parents want their kids to have that extra learning. They want additional assistance in math and reading skills.”

They also want their children in those enrichment activities, like Camp Invention and its emphasis on remote cars, robotics and “wet and wild” experiments.

“It’s getting kids excited about science,” she said.

To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to jrobertson@kcstar.com.

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