The Orange school district is meeting a strong interest from families for an extended summer school program head on and is preparing to accommodate around 300 students. Summer learning opportunities will be supported by federal ESSER funds – the district received $164,000 in these emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the nation. The funds are available until September 2023.
“This grant will be used to address learning loss among students,” explained Mike Gray, director of buildings and operations for Orange schools. “It can be used for purchasing educational technology, providing mental health services and supports, school facility repairs and improvements to reduce the risk of virus transmission or improve indoor air quality as well as other operations necessary to maintain the continuity of services.”
Evelyn Russo, director of curriculum/instruction & personnel explained at a recent Board of Education meeting that prior to the end of the school year, the district shared a summer learning interest survey with all families. “I am so excited to say that we have 250 students interested in coming to summer school. When we take into account the incoming kindergarteners and that number might be 50 additional students, and with 50 coming from the extended school year (ESY) program, we might have 350 coming to summer school,” she said.
Traditionally summer learning was 8:30 to 11:30 weekday mornings, and this summer, the district is adding flexibility so that students can come for one, two or three hours. The program runs July 6 through August 5. New to the program this year are courses in art, technology, physical education, inventions, yoga, meditation and a few others, in addition to the traditional reading and math offerings.
“We are excited to design the program to meet the needs of the children who are coming. We feel that with the survey results, we have a good handle on those needs in addition to our data-driven information from our SRBI meetings, which are scientifically research-based intervention meetings that are critical for the use of some of the ESSER funds,” Russo said.
The program will include a kindergarten readiness program offered to every incoming kindergartener, so that they can prepare to hit the ground running in September. Alongside the traditional summer school program, the special education department is responsible for ESY programming each year. The program, based on students’ individual education plans, runs synchronously with the summer school program.
The new program was met with high accolades from Board of Education member Betty Hadlock, who said, “I just want to share how delighted I am that so many parents responded to the survey and that they’ve expressed interest. Last month, I talked about the fact that offering extended opportunities for students of all levels would be important, so thank you for taking that on.”
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent