© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

$18,000 grant will add 4 more undergrad workers to a District 87 summer program

Sara Ariel Wong for NPR

Now in its second year, Bloomington's District 87 is preparing for another round of summer programming that expands what it means to have summer school — but Diane Wolfe, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, would rather you not use that latter term.

"We call it D87 Summer Programming, not summer school. We thought about being cute and saying 'D87 Summer Camp,' but it's really not a camp," said Wolf. "It really is a different approach."

Boosted by emergency COVID funding, District 87 first launched a "comprehensive" three-week, all-day summer program in 2021, prompted, in part, by a desire to prepare students to return to in-person learning after school shutdowns in 2020.

The district involved pre-existing "community partners" — the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal and the Children's Discovery Museum among them — to add "enrichment" opportunities to the program; Illinois State University provided around 60 students from its teacher education school to staff the program.

"The students got academics in the morning, they break for lunch and during that time is when we realized, 'Boy, we're going to need more hands on-deck,'" Wolf said.

Enter Illinois Wesleyan University.

An $18,000 grant from PNC Bank will fund four internships for undergraduate students in its teacher prep program to work with D87 this summer. While working generally, the IWU students will have a specific focus on helping students with reading.

"Our pre-service teachers (will) apply what they learned from their coursework as they assist in diagnosing K-5 students' reading levels and providing support to improve their reading proficiency," Leah A. Nillas, associate professor and chair of IWU's Educational Studies Department, said in a statement.

Last year, more than 300 first-through fifth-graders participated in the full-day programming at Sheridan Elementary School — about one-sixth of the district’s elementary population at the time. The middle school and high school programs were set to cap enrollment at around 100 students.

In a release, IWU said about 400 students from the district's six elementary schools are expected to be served this year.

Wolf said that, while it's still early in the laying-things-out stage of planning, last year's participants already are gearing up for a second round of programming this summer as "it was something that rejuvenated both my teachers and my students."

While she spent last year asking the "community partners" like museums and the local Boys & Girls Club to "take a risk" and trust the district's programming plans, they came back asking for "first dibs" in working with D87 this yea, she said.

"I think the biggest thing is that we, as a school district, are not the only source of education in our community," she said. "I think that's really important to remind people that we are one of the outlets for students, but learning occurs in a lot of different settings.

"The more exposure we can get students, we might spark that interest, like, 'Oh my gosh — that's why I'm learning that history class or in math class,' but we also need to make sure that students can see their learning in the community of which they live."

Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.