Frederick County Public Schools will host a summer program for students entering kindergarten to help with any learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program will be funded by a $900,000 grant the school system received from the Maryland State Department of Education.

Through the grant money, FCPS will run a program called The Rising Kindergarten Elevate Academy. Approximately 600 current pre-K students who are transitioning to kindergarten in the fall will be able to participate in the program, which will run for 20 days this summer at 24 elementary schools.

According to Leslie Frei, FCPS supervisor of early childhood education, the school system is still deciding which schools will host the program.

The academy will run for four hours a day, five days a week, and FCPS is hoping to recruit 66 teachers and 66 instructional assistants to staff the program.

Kevin Cuppett, executive director of curriculum, instruction and innovation for FCPS, told Board of Education members last week he anticipates a recruitment challenge, however.

“We’re aiming big here, and I don’t think it’s any surprise that it’s been a very long year for teachers and instructional assistants,” he said.

He added FCPS is working to recruit both pre-K teachers and teachers who have certifications for teaching lower elementary school grades. It’s also possible some interns and recent college graduates may be hired.

The program is expected to target missed learning opportunities in language and literacy, social foundation, mathematical thinking and physical development with a focus on well-being.

According to FCPS officials, by the end of the current school year, it is anticipated that most pre-K students will have had less than 25 days of in-person instruction.

“We believe this [program] will be an important boost as [students] head into the next school year,” Cuppett said.

In addition to literacy and mathematics, FCPS is also hoping to engage students in hands-on, STEM-related activities through the program, Cuppett said.

“We wanted to make sure this didn’t feel like a skill and drill type of experience, and this will also be an opportunity for our teachers to work on everything from classroom routines and structures ... ,” he said.

Breakfast and lunch will be served to all students participating in the program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Meals Programs. Transportation will also be provided through FCPS, and transportation costs will be funded through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, a federal grant provided to local school systems to address the impact of the pandemic.

Due to the various grants, FCPS will not have to spend any additional resources to run the summer program.

Board of Education member Liz Barrett questioned last week if spots in the academy were reserved for students who attended pre-K through FCPS and were enrolled in an FCPS elementary school for kindergarten.

Frei said the priority is to serve those students, but there is an opportunity for any incoming kindergarten student to attend.

“We want to hold as many spots as we can for currently enrolled pre-K students, but then it will open up to any children who are enrolling for kindergarten in the fall,” she said.

Many of the finalities of the program are still being worked out. Elementary schools that host the program will be chosen based on the amount of staff that is recruited, among other factors. Families who have pre-K students enrolled in FCPS will be alerted by their school if it has been chosen to host the program. Families will then have the choice to enroll their child.

There are currently 28 FCPS elementary schools that have general education pre-K classes, meaning a few are expected to be left out.

“We wrote a grant for the max amount of kids possible, but we knew we would have to be flexible with the design [of the program],” Frei said in a phone call. “We’re going to try and reach as many families as possible.”

A portion of the received funding will also be allocated to Monocacy Valley Montessori Public Charter School and Carroll Creek Montessori Public Charter, both of which have pre-K classes.

Those schools will bring in kindergarten students a week early in August instead of over the summer.

Both schools will also hire additional staff to provide an extended day program for 4-year-old students from the start of the school year through the end of December.

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill

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