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July 25, 2017

Kennewick schools buzzing with thousands of students during summer

Eighth-grader Gabe Gosney was looking forward to just one thing when school ended on June 14: summer school.

He hasn’t been disappointed. Gabe has taken tours of Columbia Basin College (CBC), a local wind farm and the REACH Museum. He and his classmates have designed bungee cords and helicopters in class and got an early look at the algebra they’ll study when school starts in the fall.

“It’s been all engineering and math and it’s great,” he says.

Gabe is just one of the roughly 2,700 students who has attended summer school programs in Kennewick schools. From providing opportunities for students to grow and explore their interests to helping them stay on track for graduation, the programs are making sure students can be successful when they return to the classroom this fall.

The district has 31 programs in its schools this summer, more than double what was offered three years ago. They are supported by hundreds of teachers, paraeducators, office and support staff spread across 19 buildings.

Another two dozen staff are working in school kitchens in many of those same locations. They provide free breakfasts and lunches daily to hundreds of students attending the programs and other children in the community as part of the federally-funded USDA Summer Food Program.

Many of the summer programs help students get up to speed in their studies. That includes credit retrieval for high school students and reading and math intervention at the middle and elementary school levels. Some district staff make home visits during the summer, providing support to migrant students or those with special needs.

At the elementary schools, staff identified students who could benefit from summer learning and invited them to attend summer school free of charge.

The extra classroom time helps students avoid the summer slide, says Naomi Puckett, Ridge View Elementary’s assistant principal and summer administrator.

“I’m really excited to see how willing and happy the kids are to be here,” Puckett says.

Teachers also benefit, she says, as summer school provides the opportunity to try out new lesson plans and teaching strategies.

Tri-Tech Skills Center offered its Summer Skills Academy, giving all high school age students the opportunity to earn graduation credits but also discover the courses available at the program.

The Honors Math/STEM Camp that Gabe and about 60 other Park Middle School students attended was operated by Washington State University (WSU) GEAR UP. The program aims to prepare students for college or university and future careers.

Seventh-grader Maricela Mendoza said she was impressed during her visit to the wind farm when they got to look inside the base of one of the giant windmills.

Aurora Stowers, another seventh-grader, says she’s grateful she had the opportunity to visit CBC and now wants to learn more about enrolling there after high school. Most of all, though, she says she’s glad she could work on her math skills a bit this summer and be ready for the next school year.

“I loved how hands-on it made everything,” Aurora says.