Schenectady district faces ‘tough decisions’ on summer program

School officials to prioritize applications, seek to accommodate more participants
Kids at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School participate in Schenectady School District's Summer Enrichment program in July.
Kids at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School participate in Schenectady School District's Summer Enrichment program in July.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

SCHENECTADY — Nearly twice as many students have registered for Schenectady’s summer enrichment program as signed up last year, prompting an effort to expand the program and prioritize students.

School district officials had planned for 850 students to sign up for the summer program, up from just over 650 students last year, when the summer program was launched.

But by the time the district closed registration last week, it had received more than 1,200 applications, Schenectady school district spokeswoman Karen Corona said on Tuesday. And they were still trickling in.

“So, we are going to have some tough decisions to make about that,” schools Superintendent Larry Spring told the school board last week, as he explained how demand was outstripping capacity. “We need to work as hard as we can to figure out how we can get as many kids as possible into the program.”

The district had budgeted $850,000 for the enrichment program, an amount that would support 17 classroom sections at each of four school sites. Last year, the program cost $982,000, including some expenses for materials and other supplies that can be used again this year, Corona said. The program is supported primarily through federal grants but also with some general fund money.

After last week’s board meeting, Spring said district officials will look for ways to expand the program, but he also said it is challenging to staff the program.

If the district has to turn away some registrants, Spring said, it will do so using a need-based priority system. The district’s neediest schools will receive the most slots in the program, and the neediest students within each schools will be given priority, he said.

The program brings elementary school students back to class for part of the summer, offering a 10-hour day that includes three meals, academic activities and recreational opportunities, including regular swimming lessons.

The summer program days are designed to operate more like camp, with smaller class sizes and activities inside and outside. But students also receive basic academic instruction.

Spring and school board members said they see the flood of applications as a sign that they are offering something Schenectady families want. Spring has said the long-term goal is to offer the summer program to all elementary school students in the district.

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