LEAP supporters get update

Published 10:36 pm Thursday, March 17, 2016

School Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney addressed a crowd at United for Children Suffolk’s breakfast on Thursday.

School Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney addressed a crowd at United for Children Suffolk’s breakfast on Thursday.

With a little help from the United for Children Suffolk and others, Suffolk Public Schools will expand its summer enrichment program to cover 500 middle school students at risk of not being promoted.

More than 50 community leaders attended Thursday’s breakfast sponsored by United for Children Suffolk, a collaboration spearheaded by Suffolk Public Schools and United Way of South Hampton Roads. The collaboration to help break the chain of poverty in Suffolk is supported through volunteers and financial donations from multiple businesses, foundations and other nonprofit organizations.

Statistically, the more times a student repeats a grade, the more likely he is to drop out of school, said School Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney.

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Last year’s inaugural collaborative summer enrichment program, dubbed LEAP, for 510 elementary school students was successful, Whitney said. A five-week program that ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., LEAP gave selected at-risk students time for individual and small-group opportunities to focus on academics and enrichment opportunities that revolved around health, nutrition and wellness.

“Testing showed that the LEAP students had less summer learning loss than non-LEAP students,” said Whitney. Teachers also reported high attendance rates and higher levels of student and parent engagement throughout the program.

State remediation funding should cover most of the $109,821 cost for the academic part of LEAP this year, Whitney said. The enrichment services, such as health screenings, field trips and dental checks, would increase the total cost to $155,882, he said. This year’s LEAP program will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 29 to July 28 at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School.

Donors who supported the program last year have committed to continue their funding pledge, he said.

Whitney is also appealing to donors to throw their support behind LAUNCH, a new program aimed at middle-school students. That program will be held from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 29 to July 28 at John F. Kennedy Middle School, with the first three hours focused on academics and the last hour on enrichment services. The academics will focus on themes, including engineering, biomedical and digital storytelling.

The school division expects to receive $74,000 in remediation funds for LAUNCH’s academic program, Whitney said. The enrichment services will bring the total cost to $105,846, which he hope to generate through contributions from United Way and other nonprofit organizations.