Starting Monday, more than 7,000 Columbia students will return to the classroom, the largest summer enrollment ever for the district. They will attend the Summer Adventure program, a 24-day school session coordinated by Newton Learning.
This is the first year the district has hired an independent company to organize summer school, offered for kindergarten through 12th-grade students. With increased publicity, monetary attendance incentives — for example, a $100 shopping card for perfect attendance — and conveniences such as bus transportation and school lunches, the Newton Learning program has attracted more than twice the projected enrollment.
“We didn’t expect quite as many students,” said Roy Moeller, operations manager for Newton Learning, based in Eugene, Ore. “But we’re extremely pleased.”
However, accommodating the surge of participants has created a series of challenges — for example, trying to find the largest air-conditioned classrooms, a district administrator said last month.
“It’s been a real logistical situation to schedule for that many,” Moeller said, declining to elaborate.
Concerns about building accommodations, staffing and other resource allocations were addressed throughout the planning stages of the program. Still, in the few days leading up to the start of school, challenges remained.
Parents attended open houses Wednesday and Thursday to pick up class schedules, bus and lunch information and also to ask questions before their children start school Monday. However, some parents encountered difficulties and frustration as they stood in one of several lines to complete each task or discovered staff members could not answer their questions to their satisfaction.
Despite some of the logistical concerns of the new program, Moeller said the teachers were “ready to go.” The staff, made of mostly of Columbia teachers, principals and support staff, began training as soon as the school year ended.
The teachers’ preparedness reassured some parents as they discussed the summer curriculum at the open houses. The teachers encouraged their students to arrive early on the first day to avoid confusion.
“Due to the numbers, we’re going to work extremely hard to make sure all the kids are in all the right locations at all the right times,” Moeller said.