School district’s summer programs aim to mitigate pandemic’s impact
After 14 months of after-school programs being held remotely, Wareham Public Schools will transition back to in-person programming for the summer session.
During the School Committee meeting on May 20, Jane Fondulis, director of Beyond School Time for the district, said the programming will look “a little different” this year, but noted, “we’re very excited” to be back in person.
Typically, Fondulis said summer programs were only held at Wareham Middle School (which currently also houses Minot Forest Elementary School) and Wareham High School. But this year, due to covid-19, “we’re going to spread out,” and have programming at each of the schools, including John W. Decas Elementary, Fondulis explained.
She said programming will be offered from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday for six weeks — starting July 6 and ending Aug. 12.
“We will provide transportation and lunch as we usually do,” Fondulis said. “There’ll be less field trips this summer, but we still have great activities planned and some local field trips.”
Fondulis said the CARE program — the district’s usual summer program, which is designed to support students who are economically disadvantaged, who are at-risk academically or who have disabilities — will be offered at Decas.
The district will also offer something called “The Boost,” which Fondulis described as a “skill-based curriculum that brings the students up to grade-level curriculum.” She noted that “it’s always been kindergarten,” but this year the district is expanding to offer “kindergarten going into first grade, second grade, third grade.”
The CARE program will also be offered at the middle and high schools along with an “Accelerated Summer Academy,” funded by the after-school and out-of-school time grant the district received.
Fondulis explained that the Accelerated Summer Academy will be for “at-risk kids due to covid.” She estimated about six classes at the Middle School and six at the High School.
“Those students will have their concentrated academics in the morning,” Fondulis said. At that point, she said the district’s partner the Buzzards Bay Coalition — which also applied for the grant — will take over.
“In the afternoon, they’re going to be providing enrichment over at the Onset Bay Center, where they’ll be doing the kayaking, sailing, beach exploration,” Fondulis said. Meanwhile, the CARE program students will have the opportunity to do Buzzards Bay Coalition programming at the beach or do Mass Audubon Society programming at their property off of Great Neck Road.
Fondulis said the district would likely end up serving fewer students than in past years, however.
“Just to give you an idea, we sent the email out yesterday morning for the K-7 CARE program,” she said. “And in less than 24 hours, I’ve had like 60 emails with registrations. So parents are looking forward to it.”
School Committee member Geoff Swett was particularly concerned about whether or not the district was doing enough to help students “who have not thrived” over the past 12 months of remote or hybrid learning.
“When you think of the numbers of all the kids who have struggled and perhaps might even be at risk for entering the next grade level unprepared [...] Are we able to accommodate all of those kids who would want to be in that program and need to be in that program?”
Fondulis said principals Scott Palladino and Tracy Cote have compiled lists of students who need to be in the program at the High School and Middle School levels, respectively. But, she said this year was unique because many teachers do not want to work all four days for the full six weeks.
“This summer we have many staff that might want to just work two full days or some mornings,” Fondulis said. “They need a break, so staffing is maybe a little less.”
Six Accelerated Summer Academy classes could accommodate about 90 students, she said.
Fondulis said she wasn’t certain, but she believed Cote had identified about 130 students who need to be in the Accelerated Summer Academy.
“So if we can take 90 of those students, I think we’re hitting the most that would want to come,” she said. She also noted that the CARE program — which could also support 90 students at the Middle School, for example — has an academic component as well that could support some students, particularly those who “aren’t quite failing.”
Between the two programs, Fondulis said she thought the district would meet the needs of the students.
“It’s going to be fun,” she said.
Extended School Year program
Melissa Fay, director of Student Services, said the Extended School Year program was going to support more students than in years past.
“I think the pandemic has put some strain on some of our students with special needs, and created the need to have kind of some different thoughts about our programming this summer,” Fay said.
She explained that there would be a five-week program for some students and a six-week program for students with autism spectrum disorder.
“We will have a full battery of services,” Fay said. “Speech and language, occupational therapy, physical therapy — and our employment specialist will also be working with us this summer, which is exciting.”
The Extended School Year programs will also be offered in person, Monday through Thursday.
Committee member Joyce Bacchiocchi asked if Fay was “confident” the district would be able to serve the students in need.
Fay explained that the support is for students who “experienced significant regression,” which the district is able to track easily using assessments throughout the year.
She also noted that the district was putting together a weeklong boot camp that would be about three times larger than normal to “catch any of our students who not only are having significant regression but who were impacted greatly by the pandemic and by not being able to be in person in school this entire time.”
With those measures, Fay said she believed the district would catch “at least 95 percent of who I would like to catch — and I think that all of our programs together are catching everybody.”