A complete overhaul of USD 413’s summer school program is underway. The district’s summer learning program has previously been four weeks in length, going from 8 am to noon. The new format expands it to six weeks and from 7 am to 5:30 pm.
“We’ve also expanded the number of days per week and the number of hours per day that are available,” said Superintendent Kellen Adams. “So it’s a full expansion. I’m very pleased with the program and all the folks that have worked really hard to get this off the ground.”
Adams said he envisions the new format being “more exciting” than traditional summer school. Additionally, he said that overall loss of learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic allowed the district to “reimagine what summer learning could look like.”
“This may be a little more exciting for students than traditional summer school,” he said. “The traditional sense of summer school is not really inviting or exciting for a lot of kids. We want it to be something where they don’t just dread going to it every day.”
Adams said the new format will focus on more than just classroom instruction.
“We realize there’s a need for that, so there is still some of that instruction taking place,” he said, adding that activities outside of the classroom will be a staple of the new format.
During the opening week of the summer program this week, students have made the trip to Cleaver Farm & Home, partaking in arts and crafts projects.
“It gets kids into a business to kind of get a different experience than just sitting in the classrooms,” Adams said. “I think it’s amazing what we’re doing here in a city like Chanute, being able to offer all these additional opportunities.”
Adams indicated that the single biggest benefit is extended face-time with the students.
“I believe (extended hours) will be a tremendous help for our working parents,” he said. “It’s a safe place for students to be, where they can be loved, where they may not have that at home because parents are focused on work — and rightfully so.”
Assistant Superintendent Tracy Russell said that 7 to 8 am would serve as a drop-off time for parents. She also cited a survey conducted by the district showing that more than 50 percent of district students were spending at least an hour of their day alone at home — and the early drop-off time allows for a safe place for students to be prior to the start of classes.
“We would then run our academic, hard, intense learning sessions in the morning from 8:30 am to noon,” she said, “and from 12:30 to 3:30 run an activity experience camp.”
Russell said that a community grant provides for students to remain engaged in learning activities from 3:30-5:30 pm while their parents may still be working. She said classroom instruction throughout the regular school year has not been working for some of the district’s students.
“And so, we have to do something different in the summer,” she said.
Russell had some specific potential plans in mind for the program, too.
“We would like to expand to bringing in Lego League and more STEM and STEAM learning during the summer,” she said. “More project-based learning so that students are engaged with what they are learning. We still want to have our targeted students, but also want to open it up to all Chanute students.”
Russell said those plans also include involvement from high school students.
“We’d like to get them involved in providing experiences for kids in the afternoon,” she said.