BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos Public Schools board members have voted to apply for some $2 million in funding from the Public Education Department for a summer school program to be provided during the first three weeks of June 2021 at no cost to parents.
The program is called K-5 Plus because most elementary schools in New Mexico are kindergarten through fifth grade, but according to Supt. Kurt Steinhaus, the funding is available to LAPS for kindergarten through sixth and will include special education students.
Steinhaus said originally the requirement for the program was 25 days but earlier this year the board gave the 25 days a thumbs down.
“It’s now 15 days. It would be like free summer school during the first three weeks of June and it would include all the ancillary services,” he said.
Steinhaus noted that the district can provide incentives for teachers including perhaps $250 for materials. He also mentioned a possible multi-cultural theme, unstructured play, hands on environmental activities and budgeting for high school students to be reading buddies for the younger students.
“The PED will pay us for 25 days of school and we only have to add an extra 15 days of school. The calendar makes the count days for this the first 15 days of school and that helps us meet the 80 percent threshold and the only June attendance would be a snapshot on one day that we don’t know about until they tell us,” Steinhaus said. “It’s a little hard to explain this because essentially what it is, is saying to parents, if you’d like three weeks of free summer school in June, we’ve got it available for you. If you want one week and then your kids are going to soccer camp, we’ve got one week. It’s a complete parental choice. It’s an opportunity that builds on the summer school that we’ve had successfully in Los Alamos for a number of years.”
He said one of the reasons why the state is doing this is because they’ve got $70 million in the bank right now so they’re trying to incentivize school districts to participate.
“This would add over $2 million to our budget. Teachers will be paid at their full rate. The unit value for this program is $1,359 and if the board approves this, the next thing would be for us to sit down with teachers and plan how it would work and how they’d like to do it. The funding would start flowing in October,” Steinhaus said.
Steinhaus stressed that participation in the program is optional for teachers. He said teachers have been offered less pay for prior summer schools and have stepped up to the plate every summer including last summer. If teachers opt not to participate, the funding would be returned to the state.
Asst. Supt. Jennifer Guy noted that historically, LAPS has more staff members that are interested in teaching at summer school than can actually be used.
“The majority of our staff are interested in working so we think that will be the culture again this school year,” she said.
The purpose of K–5 Plus is to demonstrate that increased time in kindergarten and the early grades narrows the achievement gap between at-risk students and other students, increases cognitive skills and leads to higher test scores for all participants, according to the PED website.
View a video about K-5 Plus! (password: nmped)