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Summer is a time to relax, spend time with family and friends and enjoy Maine’s beauty. It’s also a time to learn. That’s particularly important for students who are working toward proficiency.
Too many children in Portland and elsewhere in the U.S. fall victim to so-called summer slide. They lose ground academically over the summer. Many also miss meals and lose healthy exercise habits.
For the second year in a row, the Portland Public Schools is working with the John T. Gorman Foundation, Portland ConnectED, the Portland Public Library and other community partners to reduce summer slide.
We have created many learning opportunities for students, including some programs housed in our schools and other programs and events tied to the district’s summer meals program. Children and their families get healthy lunches as they enjoy story time, visits with Slugger and other activities at 16 locations throughout the city.
On June 20, I joined Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and Karen MacDonald of King Middle School, Maine’s 2014 Teacher of the Year, to celebrate National Summer Learning Day with students at East End Community School. Coincidentally, the day also was the beginning of summer vacation for students in our district.
We encouraged children and families to take the Portland Pledge for Summer Success. The pledge calls on children to make the most of summer by eating healthy foods, staying active and seizing every available learning opportunity to get ready for success in September.
All children who take the pledge and sign up online at portlandmaine.gov/PortlandConnectED will be entered into a prize drawing. Seven winners selected just before the start of the new school year will join Mayor Brennan, a surprise guest and me for a book-browsing excursion.
We are able to offer extended learning programs at several elementary schools this summer, thanks to funding from the John T. Gorman Foundation and a 21st-century grant awarded by the state of Maine. Last year’s program for students in kindergarten through grade two proved effective in preventing summer slide; 90 percent of participants either maintained or improved their reading levels over the summer.
With funds from the John T. Gorman Foundation and Portland taxpayers, we also are providing bridge programs for students who will transition from elementary school to middle school and from middle school to high school in the fall.
More than 750 students will participate in some type of learning program in our schools this summer. That is the largest number ever!
The district’s 2014 graduates who are headed to Southern Maine Community College have an opportunity to participate in the brand new MySuccess program.
They will be invited to an intensive, two-week program to prepare them for college. They also will receive a $200 summer stipend and a $500 scholarship toward their first semester, as well as a dedicated coach who will work with them year-round to ensure their success at SMCC. The MySuccess program is a partnership between the John T. Gorman Foundation, SMCC, Portland Public Schools and Portland ConnectED.
The Portland Public Schools’ Food Program is working with still more partners to provide meals in association with learning activities. See a list of the food sites and events at the Portland ConnectED website.
You can learn more about summer learning on my new web show, “Let’s Talk Portland!” The summer edition features my interviews with Ron Adams, director of the district’s Food Service, Carter Friend of the John T. Gorman Foundation, and Kevin Brewster, teacher-leader at Reiche Community School.