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Teachers are in the midst of selecting and registering students for Kiwanis Summer School

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Teachers are in the midst of selecting and registering students for Kiwanis Summer School.

The Crook County School District Board recently gave the Kiwanis Club of Prineville the green light to offer a sixth year of Kiwanis Summer School.

"Kiwanis does summer school because our mission is to help the youth of our community," said Wayne Looney, a Kiwanis Club member who heads up Kiwanis Summer School.

The program has remained the same with only minor adjustments since its beginning in 2014.

Local elementary school teachers recommend students they believe would benefit from summer instruction.

From July 9 to Aug. 15, as many as 85 students who have just completed kindergarten through third grade will meet at Crooked River Elementary Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings for summer school.

Kiwanis provides funding for teachers and instructional assistant salaries, and the district covers the cost of transportation and associated costs for personnel.

Students will have the option of riding a bus, and the school district will provide breakfast and lunch at no cost to summer school students.

CCSD Director of Curriculum and Instruction Stacy Smith pointed out that attendance is one of the challenges of summer school, so the $50 registration fee is totally refundable upon 90% attendance.

"When the students attend and participate, they do well," he said. "It can be difficult to get students to consistently attend when there are so many fun summer activities and family vacations going on at the same time."

This summer, there will be three classrooms. Students will be grouped by skill level and will focus on reading and math skills. Each classroom will have a teacher and a certified aide. If Kiwanis members are able to garner enough financial support, they may add a student aide to each classroom as well.

Smith said the school district has had a successful partnership with Kiwanis since Looney, a retired teacher, brought up the idea several years ago.

"It was his idea to create a summer school opportunity to help increase the odds of success for our community's youth," Smith said. "He indicated that it made sense to put extra time and resources into our students at a very young age, rather than letting students get off-track and put more expensive interventions in place at an older age. This made sense to me as well."

Smith noted that Kiwanis has been a great partner in this endeavor ever since, and they have seen the benefit of educating young students in the summer.

"We have seen student performance data that indicates an increase in proficiency in reading, particularly, and some gains in math," Smith said. "At the very least, students continue to progress from where they left off their previous school year and resist the naturally occurring 'summer slide' that occurs when students are out of school for three months."

When the program got its start, Kiwanis had received a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation as well as funding from private donors.

"Our original plan was to do it for four years," Looney pointed out, noting that additional funding and a partnership with the school district has allowed them to operate a fifth and sixth year.

However, the grant funds have been depleted, and the expense of summer school is putting some strain on Kiwanians' other philanthropic efforts. Looney is unsure of the summer school's future.

In addition to private donors and grants, the local service club has raised money through candy sales during the holidays and a golf tournament. But they have opted to replace the golf tournament with a casino night fundraiser.

The first casino night is set for Oct. 12.

"People will have a really good opportunity to have a fun evening and support what we do," Looney said.

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