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Summer programs make strong return after virtual year

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Metro Creative Connection

Learning can happen during the summer, too.

Council Bluffs Community School District offers summer learning opportunities for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Since the State of Iowa does not provide funding for summer school, the programming is made possible by community partners and grants, Superintendent Vickie Murillo said during the Board of Education’s meeting Tuesday. Those include the Iowa West Foundation, a 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant, Title I and funding for at-risk students.

The school district offers a six-week session for elementary students. More than 150 attended this summer’s session at Longfellow Elementary School, according to Carly Gates, assistant director of teacher and learner supports.

“We were really excited about the number of students that participated this summer,” she said in a presentation at the Board of Education meeting. “We hope to have more next year.”

Although participation wasn’t back to pre-pandemic levels, it was still encouraging, said Corey Vorthmann, chief academic officer.

“After being virtual last summer, we weren’t sure what to expect,” he said.

Summer school can be a good opportunity to brush up on subjects that students find difficult and explore new topics.

“This summer was really to try to help students with new needs they had,” Gates said.

For example, an hour of math was added to the daily lessons, and interventionists offered help with math and reading, she said. Partners for afternoon electives included Sanders ATA Martial Arts, Joslyn Art Museum, Lauritzen Gardens, Fontenelle Forest, Hy-Vee, The Rose Theater and Hitchcock Nature Center.

The district purchased 1,771 books through the Kids Read Now program, which mailed them directly to students’ homes. Students were able to choose the books they wanted from a list provided by the district.

Fifth-graders created their own salsa “business” in a five-day unit with produce from CreekTop Gardens and help from the Kitchen Council. Other partners included The 712 Initiative, Chef Around the Block and Big Muddy Urban Farm. Community members did a taste test on the last day of the project.

The project was kicked off by Kyle Osborne, TS Bank’s director of financial literacy, who challenged students to solve a business problem using the example of a produce stand turned salsa business, according to a press release from TS Bank. Almost 30 students managed the business’s budget, developed a business plan — including a business name and brand — created new recipes to market and collaborated with their team members. In addition, Chef Dan Benigno of Chef Around the Block helped the students see the need for quality ingredients and a good balance in their recipe selections.

“This was one of our most successful electives,” Gates said.

Elementary students took the Measures of Academic Progress test at the end of the session so results can be compared to their spring scores to determine their growth. This replaced the RAPID test previously used.

A total of 200 middle school students participated in the two three-week Summer Explore sessions, Gates said in the presentation. Teachers focused on social-emotional learning and used curriculum from Panorama. The program continued the district’s partnerships with the Henry Doorly Zoo, Fontenelle Forest, Lauritzen Gardens, Hot Shops Art Studio and Hitchcock Nature Center.

Participants hosted a showcase at the zoo, and about 100 parents, family members and friends attended.

Students earned a total of more than 200 credits during the district’s three-week Credit Recovery program, Gates said in her presentation. Several additional teachers were hired to Teachers worked closely with counselors to identify student needs. Thirteen high school seniors who lacked some of the credits needed to graduate in the spring earned enough to graduate in the summer ceremony.

About 100 incoming freshmen participated in the LYFT Freshman Transition program this summer, according to the presentation. Daily discussion prompts sent home to encourage parent engagement were used by 97% of the parents and students.

The school district’s Extended School Year program, held early in the summer, was lengthened from 12 to 15 days, said Lori Durand, director of special education. The program served 102 elementary students and 60 secondary students who had been identified in their Individual Education Place as needing the instruction. Teachers focused on reading, math and social skills for all grade levels and helped students work toward their IEP goals. They also studied subjects related to this year’s theme, which included recycling, alternative energy sources and plant life.

The Work Experience program, a six-week session for high school students, grew from four to six sites, including the Charles E. Lakin YMCA, Goodwill, Planet Fitness, CHI Health Mercy Hospital, Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital and the YMCA Health Living Center. Enrollment increased from 24 to 42 students.

Participants learn about good work habits and also do some hands-on work, Vorthmann said.

“It’s very much authentic learning for those kids,” he said.

The district expects a report this fall from the Iowa Reading Research Center, which observes and evaluates reading instruction, Vorthmann said.

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