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Summer learning top of mind as Rochester schools superintendent visits White House

Rochester City School District Superintendent Carmine Peluso speaks at a meeting with U.S. Education Department representatives at the White House on Wednesday. To his left is Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten.
Marisol Lopez
/
Rochester City School District
Rochester City School District Superintendent Carmine Peluso speaks at a meeting with U.S. Education Department representatives at the White House on Wednesday. To his left is Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten.

Rochester City School District Superintendent Carmine Peluso visited the White House on Wednesday for a meeting with representatives from the U.S. Department of Education to discuss summer learning.

In his speech at the White House, Peluso said about 3,000 students in the district experienced housing instability last year, so the district's summer programming had to account for those students’ needs.

“When we were building our vision for our summer programming, we needed to make sure that we were doing high quality academics, right? But also high-quality enrichment opportunities,” Peluso said during the meeting. “We want to make sure that they maintain on grade level so that when they hit for us in 12th grade ... we know they're set up for success for graduation.”

This comes on the heels of a school board meeting Tuesday where those same programs were put under a microscope.

Last year the district spent $1,319 per student for summer programming. Attendance averaged 68%.

Alysia Thomas, director of expanded learning, said based on research, students would need to attend more than 75% of the time to see better academic outcomes.

"We're ... working with various stakeholders so that we can make sure that attendance incentives are in place, such as pep rallies and ice cream socials to allow our students to want to come to summer learning,” Thomas said.

Thomas says pandemic relief aid allowed for more support staff during the 2023 summer school session, like social workers, teacher assistants, and paraprofessionals. A key focus going forward, she said, will be to encourage more English language learners to participate.

“Based on the data, we noticed that there were fewer students who actually attended this past summer,” she said. “And we want to eliminate the barriers and make sure that we're getting them enrolled into all of our programs and opportunities.”

The district is budgeting about $4 million for summer programing this coming season for nearly 3,500 students.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.