Federal stimulus money to be used for summer academy

Charlotte Guy

Wilson is using around $180,000 from President Biden’s COVID-19 relief package to develop a Summer Acceleration Academy.

The Academy offers a two-week in-person program that offers classes created by Wilson teachers on content of their choosing. It aims to close learning gaps and to build stronger relationships between students and the school.

The Academy will contain both academic and social-emotional curriculum; courses ranging from writing boot camps to meditation. Teachers, though not required to participate, will be responsible for creating their own four to eight-day curriculum, paid for with the stimulus money. 

Science teacher Dani Moore is just one of 13 teachers already signed up to create a course. Alongside social worker Phyllis Ford-Berger, the pair plan to lead half-day “mindfulness nature walks” through rock creek. Moore is also planning on incorporating different exercises to practice self-reflection and awareness. 

“[The academy] is also kind of interesting, because it’s a glimpse into what [teachers] would be teaching if we weren’t restricted by the curriculum,” she added.

Though Moore opted for a four-day course, Mass Media teacher Kadesha Bonds and her sister have chosen to create two half-day courses that span the total two weeks of the academy. 

In the AM sessions, she will lead a course called learn how to shoot a short film with your phone or tablet. In the later session, her sister will lead a course that teaches students how to design and print their own t-shirt, with Bond’s assistance.

“We want to just give [students] the opportunity to have fun and to have things that they can take away with them,” Bonds said.

Despite the enrichment and entertainment these courses can provide they are not for credit and are not taking the place of traditional summer school, which will begin at the end of June. 

This means that the academy will have a one-week overlap with summer school and the last week of DC’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). However, students who are employed through SYEP can be paid for one week for attending one of the programs. Students are not obligated to attend, but freshmen and sophomores are being targeted in addition to high-risk students. 

The at-risk students are determined by five factors: attendance, being more than two grade levels behind reading or math, receiving reduced or free lunch, having a history of out-of-school suspensions, and certain family circumstances.

DCPS also used the percentage of at-risk students, which at Wilson is 22 percent, to determine the amount of money that would be given to schools. 

Martin is mandated by DCPS to allocate the earmarked money on summer intensive programs and high-intensity tutoring to bridge the learning loss caused by the pandemic. Along with the summer academy, this could also mean budgeting the money towards enrichment and tutoring companies like Applerouth or Prep Matters. 

Although she is not required to work with external programs, DCPS strongly encourages it for consistency and continuity. An alternative could be offering money to teachers for overtime premiums. 

Overall, Martin thinks it won’t be too difficult to utilize and budget the money. “I think it’s going to be pretty easy for us to figure out what we’re going to use it for because I don’t think there’s going to be much flexibility, to be honest,” she said. 

Martin usually only gets $22,000,000 for the school budget, but even with the unaccustomed extra money she still has some hesitations about whether it will be enough to accomplish her goals. 

“With this budget, it’s hard for me to know because I’ve never dealt with external partners like this or tried to set up a summer school like this,” Martin said.