Say Yes Buffalo is contributing $1.2 million to Buffalo Public Schools so that the district can offer summer school to all elementary students this year.
The contribution brings a sigh of relief from district administrators who worried they would be unable to pay for it this year, as happened two years ago when summer school was scrapped to save money.
“This is a new partnership we are forging with Say Yes,” said interim Deputy Superintendent Mary Guinn.
Half-day programs running for four weeks will be offered at 26 school sites for all elementary students in prekindergarten through sixth grades.
Last year, roughly 11,000 students took advantage of the program, administrators said. That followed heavy criticism of the district in 2012 when it opted to save money by not offering summer school and, instead, sent students home with worksheets to be completed over the vacation.
This year, elementary summer school will run July 8 to Aug. 1, with transportation and meals provided.
As part of the partnership with Say Yes, community organizations will help provide summer school activities for the first time.
The total cost for elementary programs is $2.6 million, which will be funded through money provided by Say Yes, as well as federal grants and general fund money, administrators said.
Remedial summer school courses will also continue to be offered to students in grades seven through high school. That will cost $1.2 million, including student transportation, according to information provided to the School Board.
Guinn said money to pay for summer school dwindled after the district wound up spending more than anticipated to try and expand after-school programs this year.
Early in the school year, the district was supposed to cover the cost of after-school programs in 28 schools, five days a week starting last October. That plan, developed in conjunction with Say Yes, fell apart because the district apparently did not appropriately plan for this expense.
Leaders with Say Yes and the district ultimately agreed that the district would spend $2.1 million, plus transportation costs, to pay for downsized after-school programs at eight schools starting in February.
Another 17 Buffalo schools offered after-school programs paid for by special grants. Five schools were forced to cancel their after-school programs.
For a while, it appeared summer school programs might be in jeopardy, as well.
But the district reached out to Say Yes and has been working with the organization over the past few weeks to scrape together the necessary funding to keep summer programs going.
District and Say Yes administrators said the summer school partnership supports the priorities of both organizations to expand learning time for students.
“We made the promise of college and post-secondary tuition,” said David Rust, executive director of Say Yes Buffalo.
“And it’s our opinion that extended learning programs are a key driver, if not the key driver, in kids being successful academically and ultimately being able to access the Say Yes scholarships,” he said.
Rust also said Say Yes will work with the district this summer to help it come up with a more reliable and sustainable funding stream to pay for summer school in the future.
Eleven elementary schools that have been awarded federal school improvement grant money will host their own summer school programs, while all other students will take school buses to one of 15 other hub sites.
The half-day elementary programs will run from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with the exception of Futures Preparatory School 37, which will offer a full-day summer school program from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Buffalo teachers will provide all English and math instruction, while staff from community organizations will provide enrichment programs, Guinn said. Those enrichment programs have yet to be finalized but could include music, art, leadership or extended academic programs, she said.
Rust said he believes about 10 community organizations will participate in providing summer school activities this year.
Academic instruction will be tailored to each student’s academic needs, whether they are behind or at grade level, said Kai Lewis, one of the district’s directors of school leadership.
Students in grades seven through high school will be offered remedial courses at four or five different hub schools from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Yellow bus service will be offered to seventh- and eighth-graders, while high school students will be provided Metro passes.
The district is also considering offering a full-day summer school option to high school students who need to retake more than two courses.
Finally, the district will continue to offer a one-week Freshman Academy program for all incoming freshmen from 8:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Aug. 18 through 22. That program typically serves 2,400 to 2,500 students.
Administrators said parents should receive more detailed information about summer school offerings in two weeks.