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Schenectady summer program applications open

Schenectady summer program applications open

District officials expect to serve nearly 1,000 elementary school students
Schenectady summer program applications open
Clifford the Big Red Dog visits children in the library at Schenectady's MLK Elementary School last July.
Photographer: Marc Schultz/Gazette Photographer

SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady City School District is accepting applications for its summer enrichment program, which district officials expect will serve around 1,000 elementary students and scores of middle school students.

The applications, which were sent home and posted on the district's website last week, are due April 15. District officials will determine which students are accepted into the programs based on student and school needs, Superintendent Larry Spring said.

While the program will serve around the same number of students served last summer, officials this year are folding middle schoolers into the broader summer program, which started as an elementary-focused program in 2017. The elementary school program last summer proved more popular than the district could manage: officials had originally planned to serve around 850 students but grew that to over 1,000 after around 1,400 students applied.

However, Spring said he expected driving interest in the middle school program to be a harder sell, with older students more reluctant to devote a summer to school and parents less in need of a childcare option for their middle school-aged kids. 

Each of the district's three middle schools plan to host students during the summer; another group of rising ninth graders will go to a program at the high school. And for the first time this summer, students moving from pre-kindergarten programs in kindergarten will also be eligible for the elementary summer program.

The summer program, which district officials are still organizing, is scheduled to be housed at Hamilton, Howe, Pleasant Valley and Yates elementary schools — as well as the three middle schools. The program is set to begin Monday, July 8 and last through Friday, Aug. 2, with students coming to school Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Spring said officials were still considering whether to shorten the day by an hour.

When district officials established the summer program, it was primarily funded through grants. This year, however, they are looking to transition the program into the general fund, providing more stable funding in the years to come. Spring said the program — serving over 1,000 elementary students and a few hundred middle school students for 10 hours a day — is expected to cost about $1.5 million, with about $300,000 of that coming from two different grant programs.

The district is also looking to fine-tune the summer program by “gamifying” academic lessons in a way that engages students in a program with a summer camp feel. Students in the program have gone on field trips, gotten weekly swimming lessons and organized small community events.

“We work pretty hard to make sure kids don't feel like they are being sentenced to summer schools and it's a punishment,” he said.

The district's ability to expand the program in size this year is limited by construction planned at some of its elementary schools. But in the long run, Spring hopes the summer program will grow to serve thousands more students.

“Rather than dealing with a change that's a dramatic increase in size, we are thinking more about how do we refine [the program],” Spring said of this summer's effort.

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