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Medford unveils Summer Experience

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Scot MacLeod works with fifth-grader Yasir Perez on a reading assignment Tuesday at Jefferson Elementary School.
It’s like summer school with a K-12 twist

The Medford School District wants to turn summer school into something more like summer fun with a new two-month program from mid-June to mid-August that’s been dubbed Summer Experience.

Promoted on the MSD website as “hands-on, minds-on and worksheet free,” Summer Experience will be broken up into four two-week sessions and be available to all K-12 students in the district. A link to the district’s sign-up application can be found on the MSD website.

Jeanne Grazioli, MSD’s executive director of teaching and learning, said Summer Experience will differ from what families have come to expect from summer school.

“In the past we’ve had limited funding, and so we didn’t have the ability to do transportation for all students, to do lunch for all students, to hire as many staff as we’re about to hire,” she said. “And so we’ve been able to expand the capacity of how many students we can serve due to the funding increase, and the amount of time and length and things like that, too.”

Summer school typically is for students who need to make up credits after falling behind, but Summer Experience, says Grazioli, will be “more of a K-12 experience.”

Students can sign up for one, two, three or all four sessions, though exactly which “enrichment activities” will be offered at which grade level is still being determined. Subject matter will be at least partly determined by the skill sets of volunteers. About 150 Medford educators will take part, but the district is also seeking community volunteers willing to lend a hand (a link to those applications is available on the district website).

Medford superintendent Bret Champion said the district has reached out to faith-based partners and hosted a Zoom meeting Wednesday that included about 60 of those. They sounded excited to help, he said, and the district is encouraging more people who have something to teach to consider giving it a try.

“Some of these volunteers will be able to offer some supplementary opportunities for our students,” he said. “We were joking last night, but truly pickleball would be a very fun thing that would be awesome to have volunteers with. We had a mom and her daughter want to come in and do dance, and that’s fantastic.”

Another would-be volunteer offered to go through the book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.” All of the above would be right in Medford’s wheelhouse this summer, said Champion, because Summer Experience isn’t supposed to look and feel like traditional school. Reading will be targeted in younger students and math in older students, but “it’s like real experiences where they get to apply things.”

Critical skills will also be a Summer Experience focus. Grazioli said a group of instructional specialists looked at trends in the district to identify areas where students were lagging. Fourth-graders could use some help dealing with fractions, for instance. For seventh-graders, integers have emerged as a weak spot.

“So we’ll be incorporating those skills into the activities that the students do,” Grazioli said.

The district will be hiring more teachers to lead classes this summer, too. Those interested can apply online or talk to Grazioli at a job fair scheduled to be held at the district office, 815 S. Oakdale Ave., from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 22.

Grazioli said the district will staff Summer Experience as if about one-third of its roughly 14,400 students attend. More may show up, but the hope is that nobody gets turned away.

“Right now what we’ve told parents is we want to offer it to every student that signs up,” she said. “If we are limited by staffing — that’s why we’re doing all this recruitment right now — we may need to make some minor adjustments. But we’re hopeful to be able to serve all the students that sign up.”

The program will be funded by the $250 million Summer Learning and Child Care package the state announced March 8. According to MSD communications specialist Leah Thompson, the state allocated MSD $4.77 million for summer programs — the grant is further divided into a summer academic support grant, summer enrichment/academic program grant and school child care.

Even before those funds became available, Champion said, the district was planning to expand its summer offerings using money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund, which was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

“The state coming in was a bit of a surprise,” Champion said. “Not bad. It’s targeted specifically for summer school. So we were going to take the ESSER funds and do it. Then the summer school money came in, so now we’ll be using that and we’re very excited about the opportunity for that.”

Summer Experience’s four Monday through Thursday sessions are set for June 14-24, June 28-July 14 (that one includes a break July 5-8), July 19-29 and Aug. 2-12. Days run from 8:30 a.m. to noon, with a free lunch set from noon to 12:30 p.m. Bus rides to and from school will be provided.

Nine of the district’s 15 elementary schools, including Ruch Outdoor Community School, will host Summer Experience, and students within the boundaries of the other six are being directed to another school. Kennedy and Wilson Elementary students, for instance, will attend Abraham Lincoln Elementary.

Medford’s middle school students will head to McLoughlin Middle School, and each of the high schools, including Central Medford High, will also host Summer Experience classes.

Champion said he believes Summer Experience could have a huge impact on the 2021-22 school year for those students who take advantage.

“We know that this is our next step toward making our students closer to whole from this 13 months that they have missed,” he said. “Again, they did lots of work in Comprehensive Distance Learning. That’s why part of what you’ll hear from us is about relationship-building and working on their sense of self, and making sure that that’s part of it as well, so that we are ready to hit the ground in the fall with students who are ready to roll with our next school year.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.