SALEM, Ore. — For many kids, summer break is less than a month away. But because of all the distance learning this year, some school districts are increasing summer programs.
Salem-Keizer Public Schools expects at least 13,000 students to participate in summer programming.
The district has more than 200 summer programs planned this year. That's more than double the typical number that will take place at three district high schools.
“I know a lot of kids have really, really disengaged,” said Jennifer Stanislaw, an EMT and fire science teacher at West Salem High School.
That’s why she said summer opportunities are especially important.
“This is a way to reengage them back into the school environment,” Stanislaw said, who is also a McNary summer camp site coordinator.
Stanislaw said it’s been an intense month of coordination among school and district staff.
“The teachers that are running these are all engaged and they’re all ready to go because they love what they do,” she said.
Nichole Spearman-Eskelsen oversees summer programs for the district.
She said the district will offer both traditional, more academic summer programming like high school credit recovery or programs for kids with special needs, along with about 80 other "enrichment opportunities" that are more focused on hands-on and applied learning.
“Our enrichment opportunities are ranging anything from a poetry slam opportunity, to mathematics applied through chess and games, anywhere to construction and helping build a shed for those that were survivors of the wildfires this past year,” Spearman-Eskelsen said.
“It’s not just about the skills. But it’s providing a resource to the community as well as providing an opportunity for the whole student to heal from this process,” she said.
Each opportunity should be a couple weeks long and take place for 3-3.5 hours a day. It’s expected there will be about 20 kids per camp/program. Academic summer programs will run three to four weeks long and students in those programs are generally invited to participate.
Spearman-Eskelsen and her team got to work quick after receiving more than $14 million through the state. That money included the district’s 25% matching contribution.
“With our new grant dollars from the governor, we're able to expand our opportunities,” said Spearman-Eskelsen.
All that funding means programs are free for families.
“We are providing meals and we are, as much as possible, providing transportation. “We're still working out logistics,” Spearman-Eskelsen said.
She said most of the programming focuses on kids in grades three through eight. However, there are options for students in all grades. High school students, for instance, can also participate as paid employees allowing them to grow their technical and leadership skills at the same time.
“They're going to learn something new. They're going to learn something with their peers. It's priceless. It really is,” said Stanislaw about the kids who will be participating.
The deadline to apply for summer programming is June 1 with the first summer program to begin on June 28.
Spearman-Eskelsen said if a particular opportunity gets more requests than there are slots, students will be picked through a lottery system.
She said as of Monday, 977 students had applied to the 80 enrichment opportunities.