Decatur City Schools is moving its summer extended day program from Julian Harris Elementary to Brookhaven Middle School, a move that will increase the program’s costs but also will expand the academics and extracurricular activities.
“We’re trying to expand opportunities for students who have not had the chance to attend the program,” said Rachel Poovey, DCS elementary education supervisor.
The camp, which starts June 1 and will run through Aug. 5, is for pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. The weekly cost is $85.
Superintendent Ed Nichols said moving the program to Brookhaven puts the camp in a more central location and will allow the system to offer academic help to some of its English Language Learner elementary students.
“This camp is not just for kids who can afford it, but those who need help,” he said.
Poovey said the district will allow 150 students to register, which is 25 more than last year. She said they plan to use student STAR testing data from May as a starting point to identify where students are and what they should be doing academically.
Poovey said they will test students again in August to measure progress.
“Camp is going to be fun, but we’re also going to focus on academics as well,” she said.
The most significant shift will be a focus on non-English-speaking students who are largely Hispanic and whose parents have little contact with the school district. Poovey said each elementary school has been asked to provide names of three to five students who would benefit from the summer academy but would not get to attend because of cost. She said these students will be allowed to attend for $5 per week, but if the students are ELL, their parents must agree to attend language support programs at least twice weekly.
Poovey planned this part of the camp before Joe Adams, of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, released his annual analysis of Decatur’s test scores versus those of other area systems. He said Decatur is one of the most diverse school districts in the state, but that diversity comes with challenges, especially as it relates to the number of Hispanic students, which has increased from less than 1 percent in 1996 to 24 percent today.
PARCA’s report pointed out that many Hispanic students are disconnected from the community because of language barriers.
Poovey said Decatur will have bilingual teachers coming two days per week to the camp, but the summer program will have more than academic programs. Poovey said students will continue with their usual field trips, plus they are adding the Golden Flake factory in Birmingham to the list this year.
She said students will continue to swim on Mondays and participate in skating or drama and the arts on Fridays.
“It’s going to be a summer of fun, but we want our students to learn as well,” Poovey said.