The Southampton School District will bolster its summer school program for lower grades this year, investing more time and money in a plan to help students whom the district feels are not reaching their full potential.
The Literacy and Math Academy, as the program is called, will cost the district an estimated $79,000 to run, nearly $37,000 more than budgeted in the recently adopted spending plan for the year, beginning this July. To make up the shortfall, the district has reallocated funds originally designated for Superintendent Dr. Scott Farina, Board of Education members, and the district technology staff to attend several out-of-state conferences.
The goal of the new summer program, Dr. Farina said, is to offer students personalized lesson plans and provide individual attention for roughly 225 participants from kindergarten through seventh grade. The biggest change in the program, and also the biggest part of the increase in spending, is that bus transportation will be provided for the first time.
“We are looking to involve more students in the program,” Dr. Farina said. “It is going to be a very targeted, individualized approach to learning, and we are providing transportation so that students are able to attend more easily.”
Approximately 300 students have been invited to participate in the program, out of about 1,000 in kindergarten through seventh grade. They are selected based on teacher recommendations, test assessment data and classroom performance. Once it is determined that a student would benefit from the program—which will run three hours a day, five days a week, for the month of July—administrators are personally calling the students’ parents to extend the invitation. The program is free.
Students will spend 90 minutes in a targeted English language arts class, followed by a short break, and then 90 minutes of math instruction.
“We were looking at how we can better serve our students and extend the learning opportunities for them,” Dr. Farina said to the Board of Education last month. “Historically, this district has run a summer program, and there have been a number of barriers associated with it—the number of students being addressed and how their needs are being met—so we wanted to leap in and change what we do here in the summer.”
“We are very excited about this program,” said Dr. Nicholas Dyno, assistant superintendent for instruction. “It will be a more personalized way for students, and we will be measuring their growth and expanding to include more students.”
According to Dr. Farina, the district initially set aside $42,000 to pay for the summer program. When the cost went up to $79,000 because a greater number of students were included, and because transportation is to be provided, the district decided to transfer $4,000 from superintendent dues and $3,000 for superintendent conferences, meaning Dr. Farina will attend only in-state conferences and belong to only one administrators’ organization. Another $1,700 will come from funds awarded for a having dual-language school, and the school will continue nixing a Camp Quinnipet trip for fourth-graders. Instead of purchasing 150 new cafeteria chairs for the intermediate school, only half that number will be purchased, saving another $5,000.
In addition, the district was able to cut $15,000 from the alternative education program, and summer hours for the guidance department will be reduced.
“Teachers will be facilitating more than instructing,” Intermediate School Principal Timothy Frazier said of the Literacy and Math Academy. “It gives them the opportunity to have more individual contact with each student, who will be intensely working on defined areas of study with the teachers’ help.”
In general, district officials were impressed with the proposed changes for the program, saying they are happy that students are being targeted for attention they need.
“I am very much in favor of expanding the targeted summer school, and I am happy with this proposal,” School Board President Heather McCallion said. “I hope that we can continue to reach out personally to parents and families, because I think it is an important component, when your child is struggling, that the district is putting its arms around you, and you are getting the support that you and your child need. I am very pleased with this proposal.”