JAMESTOWN – A new summer education program in Jamestown designed to help local students fall victim to the “summer slide” is apparently working.
On Tuesday night the Jamestown School Board met and got an update on the district’s Summer LEAP (Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress) program, which involved nearly 400 kindergarten through 4th grade students participating in programming designed to address both their academic and social needs.
District Chief Academic Officer Michelle McDowell said the program not only included customized lessons for individual students, but also field trips that allowed kids to go to places they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to visit.
“Their day consisted of not only the academic intervention in the morning where we had data-driven, individualized intervention for the kids. But we also had the enrichment piece which included field trips for the students, which was something to witness. Those kids where everywhere this summer. They had numerous experiences. They were at midway. they went to the County Fair. They went to Audubon. So they had numerous experiences around the community that really couldn’t have happened without those partnerships,” McDowell explained.
According to McDowell and Literacy Coordinator Danielle Russell, the LEAP program resulted in 98% of the students who attended from seeing the effects of the “summer slide” – which is the term used to describe what happens when students take an extended time away from school and forget some of what they’ve learned during the previous school year. The two said that over 80% of the parents who had children participate felt there was an improvement.
Jamestown Superintendent Bret Apthorpe said that he and his staff are very pleased to see the program succeed.
“I got goosebumps. We have almost 400 kids in grades K through 4 show success, both in academics and in social and emotional experiences. Excuse my French, but that’s pretty damn cool,” Apthorpe said to the board. “And I have goosebumps because right before I came here I got an email from a teacher at Lincoln and the title and summary of it was, ‘It worked!’ And it’s so damn cool that we have almost 400 kids whose future is just a little bit better than it was in June.”
No local tax dollars were used to pay for the summer program, which also ensured each participating student would have both a breakfast and lunch. Instead, funding came from a 3-year state grant along with local funding from various foundations. Participating organizations in the program included the Jamestown YWCA, the YMCA, and Boys and Girls Club.
Apthorpe told WRFA following the meeting that because the program is aimed at helping students from low income and poor families, it will likely be able to continue even after the next two rounds of funding run out.
“Seventy percent of our kids are living in poverty and that’s the toughest demographic to help academically. Across the country there’s millions, maybe even billions, focused on just trying to help that population and just not getting the results, but this program is showing hard results in its first year. If that continues I can only believe that funding will continue to flow because we’ll continue to show improvements,” Apthorpe said.