PPS SUMMER PROGRAMS FEED YOUNG MINDS & BODIES
School’s out for Portland Public Schools’ students on Friday, June 19, but they can continue learning all summer long through a variety of programs offered by the district and in conjunction with community-based organizations. Students can also get nutritious free meals at various locations throughout the city.
New to the Portland Public Schools’ summer programs this year is a special page on the district’s website, www.portlandschools.org. The page can be accessed by clicking on a button on the home page of the site that reads: “Portland Summer Success – Feeding Bodies and Minds.” The page it links to includes such features as lists of programs and events, a student Summer Learning Log and an interactive meal site map. Users can click on locations on the meal site map to learn where and when meals are offered and also what fun learning activities are available at the meal sites.
“Our ‘Portland Summer Success – Feeding Bodies and Minds’ programs are based on the premise that learning for our students shouldn’t stop during the summer. Our goal is to help students succeed by preventing the so-called "summer slide" and keep them learning all summer long,” said Portland Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk. “And just as students’ minds need to be nourished during the summer, so do their bodies. Many of our students depend on the meals provided by our Food Service program during the school year. We recognize that students’ food needs don’t stop just because it’s summer, so another feature of our summer offerings is free, nutritious meals available at 19 locations throughout the city. We also offer games and other enrichment activities for kids.”
Caulk made those remarks in the latest, “summer programs” edition of Let’s Talk Portland, an ongoing Web series in which he interviews guests about initiatives in the Portland Public Schools. In the session, Caulk interviewed Melissa Labbe, the summer program coordinator for the Portland Public Schools; Jennifer Burns, director of the Starting Strong program; and Elizabeth Pratt, the district’s School Health Coordinator and coordinator of CHAMPS, a grant program that provides afterschool and summer meals programs.
The episode can be viewed by clicking on the district’s YouTube page or by clicking here.
Labbe said the summer programs are open to pre-kindergarten through post-graduate high school students. For students in grades K-8, the learning activities will focus on math and literacy. For students in grade 9-12, programs will be offered in such areas as math, science and social studies. She said that new this year also are opportunities for students to earn early credit prior to coming into high school in the areas of health and wellness, geology and astronomy and also to do an independent research project, in which students pick a topic of interest and delve into it for a few weeks over the summer.
Labbe urged K-8 students to take the Summer Learning Pledge that can be found on the website. She also encouraged students to fill out the Summer Learning Log, in which they detail what they learn all summer long both through the summer programs but also in other ways, such as traveling on vacation with their families. Of the students who fill out the log, one student from each of the district’s schools will be selected to have lunch with the superintendent during the summer.
Burns said Starting Strong is part of Portland ConnectED, a community-wide partnership of agencies and organizations that are committed to helping Portland youth succeed from cradle to career. Starting Strong works with young children, focusing primarily on reading, because new readers can lose gains they’ve made if they don’t read over the summer. Starting Strong volunteers will come to the meal sites with books donated by the Rotary Club of Portland Maine and by education publisher Scholastic. Children in the third grade or younger can choose a book to read with a volunteer and then take the book home.
Burns said those willing to volunteer with Starting Strong to read with young children over the summer should contact her at United Way of Greater Portland at (207) 874-1000.
Pratt is coordinator of CHAMPS, which stands for Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs. It is funded by the National League of Cities and its key partners are the Portland Public Schools; the City of Portland Health and Human Services Department; the Maine Hunger Initiative; and Portland ConnectED.
Pratt said even more youngsters under age 18 will be able to get free meals this summer. Last year, meals were offered at 16 sites but this year the meals are available at 19 locations throughout the city.