Summer school kicks off with expanded programs in Oregon

The summer school is being expanded in the largest districts of Oregon | Pro Club Bd

Portland, Salem-Keizer and Beaverton school district officials said COVID relief dollars have boosted the summer program this year.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Summer is here and the students are out of school, but some are going right back in to take part in summer programs.

This week, the gym at McDaniel High School in northeast Portland was packed with students. You are part of the Portland Interscholastic League (PIL) Trajectory Summer Math Program, one of the many summer programs offered by Portland Public Schools (PPS).

“[It’s] The goal is to help kids, especially kids of color, improve their math skills over the summer,” said Marshall Haskins, senior director of athletics at PPS. Haskins is also one of the program administrators.

The program started at the height of the pandemic in 2020 with just 40 students. Now it has grown to 160 students. Haskins said district data showed a large percentage of Black and Indigenous students were not meeting academic benchmarks by the time they reached 8th grade. This particular effort began in hopes of changing their trajectory.

“We have two locations, one in Roosevelt, one here at McDaniel, and we have a full day,” Haskins said.

The days, primarily for students in grades 6-8, alternate periods focused on science, sports, field trips and other enrichment.

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“This year all the kids are learning to play the guitar and at the end of the summer they will be taking a guitar home. So we’re pretty excited about that,” Haskins said.

According to Haskins, students will have other experiences, like visiting a construction site and learning about the math involved with jobs in the field.

This summer’s $15 million program is the most robust in PPS and state history, PPS officials said in a news release. In addition to the academic program, the district partners with more than 50 community organizations and offers free summer enrichment camps and programs to over 7,500 students throughout the district.

“What has come out of the pandemic and what has become of the extra dollars we received for the summer program is a lot more unconventional when you think about how we can meet students where students are,” said Nichole Spearman-Eskelsen , coordinator of the summer programs of the Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS).

SKPS is preparing to launch most of the summer program in July. Spearman-Eskelsen said the programs continued to expand during the pandemic. She said target audiences include incoming kindergarten teachers and second- and third-grade students.

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“I’m really trying to get them up to the grade level because we’ve seen that there wasn’t that much retention because of COVID,” Spearman-Eskelsen said.

In addition, she said the summer program has expanded in terms of the Unified Sports Program, which matches special needs students with non-special needs students.

Spearman-Eskelsen said last year was the first time the Unified Sports Program was offered in the summer. This year, the Unified program was expanded to include art. County officials added that all summer programs are open to special education students.

Spearman-Eskelsen said the district also offers about 14 enrichment camps. Each had a cap of 25 students, and she said there was a lottery system used to select students for the programs.

Also new at Salem-Keiser Public Schools this summer is the expansion of what they call “Pre-K Startups,” which gives incoming kindergarten kids the opportunity to visit their school before the start of the year to get acquainted with the space. Spearman-Eskelsen said that in previous years only a few elementary schools had this option. All elementary schools are now given the opportunity to admit kindergarten children to school at an early age.

In the Beaverton School District, Vanessa Davalos said the district prioritized students with disabilities and students who were historically underserved. Davalos is new to the District and has been hired as the Extended Learning and Family Engagement Administrator, a new position.

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She said the district is serving more students than ever before. According to Davalos, the district served 2,062 students in the summer of 2020. In 2021, 6,115 students were enrolled. There are 6,595 students enrolled so far this summer, according to Davalos, and more are expected to enroll before summer programs begin.

“Up to 100 students per elementary school, 100 to 200 students in each junior high school, and 300 to 400 students in each senior high school,” Davalos said.

Davalos said the district has also been able to expand the program across the board because of the COVID relief funding. She said every elementary school now has a program called Camp Achieve, and middle schools would benefit too.

“The middle school was very easy in the summer program before we had the funding and they had little to nothing to offer the students. Now we have programs that are being offered at every middle school for our upcoming sixth graders,” said Davalos, who also said the high school level credit restoration program has also been expanded.

Back at McDaniel High School in Portland, juniors and seniors also participate in the district’s Trajectory Summer Math Program as paid coaches. You will also receive three college credits for taking a course at Portland Community College called Intro to Education 101.

“So we could start building a pipeline of potential teachers,” Haskins said.

“It’s about more than just the money. At the end of the day, it’s the kid,” said Josiah Barr when asked why he decided to become a coach. Barr is a prospective senior and plays district basketball. He said he also plans to play football next school year.

“It’s really good to give them a little boost in the summer so they know what to expect during school,” said student-athlete and coach Aaliyah Salvador, who will also soon be a senior.

PPS said there are over 500 youth employment opportunities in 36 of the programs, where high schoolers can earn substantial wages while exploring careers in science, technology, childcare, education and the arts.

Adult athletic coaches of color are also involved in the program.

“We have a program called Coach to the Classroom where we try to recruit mostly minority coaches who have been coaches for years […] to become a teacher,” Haskins said.

Students get a boost in math, but also in other ways. The program is incentivized. Students who participate will receive a t-shirt, shorts, Nike socks, shoes and at the end of the program a pair of Nike Air Jordan sneakers.

Haskins said the activities that students engage in as part of the program underscore the importance of math not only in school but also in the real world.

While the PIL Trajectory Summer Math Program was initially offered to sixth through eighth grade athletes, it was eventually opened up to other students in the district.

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