NEWARK – Summer school programs in Worcester County could see changes next year as officials struggle to find new funding sources.
In a recap of the summer academy programs for middle school students during this week’s Worcester County Board of Education meeting, officials said funding would be a concern going forward. Tamara Mills, coordinator of instruction for the school system, said this was the last year of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants that had funded many of the county’s summer school programs.
“We’re going to have a large task ahead of us,” she said. “We’re going to have to reevaluate. Times ahead are going to be a little trying.”
Mills said the summer school programs offered to students in grades four through eight depended on local funding as well as special education funding and funding from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants. The grants cover the cost of programs at Pocomoke Elementary School, Snow Hill Elementary School, Buckingham Elementary School, Snow Hill Middle School, Pocomoke Middle School, Pocomoke High School, Snow Hill High School as well as the cost of the fourth grade program at Berlin Intermediate School.
Mills said that officials were talking with the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore and other groups in search of funding.
“We have been seeking out other grants,” she said.
She stressed that the summer school programs played an important role in student learning and needed to continue in spite of financial challenges. She said the summer academies served students dealing with poverty, helped prepare students for the workforce, were a service parents wanted to see offered and helped increase the academic performance of many kids. The academies offered to students in eighth grade, in particular, prepare them for high school.
“We have found through our data but also from state data that our students in high school do better in ninth grade when they have a comprehensive freshman orientation,” Mills said.
Superintendent Lou Taylor praised the creative opportunities for hands-on learning provided to students through summer school and acknowledged that finding funding would be a challenge.
“We’re concerned about it,” he said. “We don’t know exactly where it’s going to take us. Hopefully it won’t be too devastating.”