Union School District -- stock

Union R-XI kicked off the second year of its Summer Journey summer school program last week in what Superintendent Dr. Steve Weinhold called a “smooth week.”

“If went off really well, it was great first week of summer school. Kids are in classes learning and having fun at the same time,” Weinhold said.

This is the second year the school district has partnered with Catapult Learning. The company’s Summer Journey program is a new take on learning that lures students into summer school with fun classes and cash incentives for good attendance.

As of the first day of school, Monday, June 4, Weinhold said roughly 1,000 students enrolled in the summer school program this year, only about 270 less than last year’s enrollment. He said those numbers are most likely more of what’s to come in the next few years.

“Our attendance is slightly down but we’re still very happy with enrollment,” Weinhold said. “The first year, everything’s brand new  and we had a big boost in enrollment because of that. But this year is more realistic and we’re still happy with what we have.”

Teachers and students, he added, also are having an easier time adjusting to the summer school schedule this year. He said that’s because most of them know what to expect after an experimental first year.

“It’s definitely an easier transition. The teachers know what to expect this time around and that students know what to expect, too,” he said.

He also noted that the 10 buses that are running students to school everyday have been traveling the summer school routes well and have had no problems.

Last year, the new summer school program doubled the amount of students who typically enroll over the summer. The summer program is offered for preschool students up to middle school students 

The cash incentives the program offers have been hailed as a been part of why students enroll.

If a student completes the entire summer program without missing a class that student is given a $100 cash card. Only missing a few hours of classes or a day or two still will garner a reward. A student who misses one to seven hours receives a $75 cash card. If they miss seven to 13 hours they get a $50 card.

A student’s typical schedule during summer school includes four morning classes that include reading, language arts, mathematics, science or social studies. After lunch, students attend fun courses.

The school also is providing free lunches and breakfasts to students again this year through Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Every 10 days of the summer session, students get a brand new set of classes to attend.

The program will run for a few days less than last year. Hayes said this allows students to have a break before heading straight back into school.

The program has been hailed for its help with students’ academics in the normal school year. Catapult Learning pretesting and post-testing scores revealed a 62 percent increase of students answering correctly in language arts and reading quizzes and a 173 percent increase in mathematics.

At almost every school in the district, summer testing scores doubled or at least raised by more than 15 percent. Last year, at the middle school, for instance, summer school students started the session by answering 182 questions correctly overall. At the end of the session, the students answered 888 questions overall.