Federal money allowing Wichita school district to offer free summer school programs

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – With summer school underway this month at nearly one third of Wichita Public Schools buildings, programs are free for students thanks to federal money coming to school districts.

The federal dollars are called Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, or COVID relief funds. Wichita Public Schools received about $75.5 million in the second round. Nearly 40% of that is being used to address learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

From classroom learning to enrichment opportunities, Hamilton Middle School Assistant Principal Angela Brown is glad to have about 65 students from Hamilton and other Wichita schools attend summer school in her building.

“Since we haven’t had it in a couple years, it’s been really refreshing to see the kids be engaged and involved,” she said of summer school in USD 259.

Summer camp at Hamilton Middle School runs all day for four weeks at no cost for students.

“Very necessary,” Wichita Public Schools Executive Director of Innovation and Implementation Dee Dee Stroot said of the federal dollars. “They have allowed us to not only address learning loss, but also safety and health. It allowed us to provide the one-to-one technology that we needed when we went immediate shutdown.”

Wichita Public Schools received $262.9 million in ESSR funds.

“An absolute blessing to our school district to be able to not only mitigate the effects, safely reopen schools, maintain operations, but it’s also given us an opportunity to enhance programs,” Stroot said.

The COViD relief funds are paying for transportation to enrichment opportunities like the STEM camps at WSU Tech. It’s also paying for students’ breakfasts and lunches, as well as staff needed to help students learn this summer.

“This is exactly where it should be used. It should be used on our youth and on educating our kids,” Brown said. “Remote learning; yes, we did the best we could, but they missed out on a lot.”

She said she hopes ESSER funds will continue to help pay for future summer programs at Hamilton Middle School.

Copyright 2022 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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