CLEVELAND — Despite the summer-like weather outside, class was still going on inside Lakewood High School. The last day for students here is June 2 and the first session of the district's summer learning program starts five days later.
"So we know that that many of our students were home for a chunk of the year," said Christine Palumbo. "Even some of them chose to remain remote all year. And we really feel like this summer is a great opportunity to get students back in person."
Palumbo is the Director for Teaching and Learning in the district.
This summer, Lakewood City Schools is trying to offer programs that will entice students to keep learning through their summer break including a STEM program focused on food waste and "three different opportunities, one being green architecture, the other being app creators, and then the last one being automation and robotics."
Usually, summer programs and remedial classes offered through the district cost money for families. But this year, "If you're registered with Lakewood City Schools for the 2021-2022 school year, our programs are being offered free of charge."
Lakewood and other districts in the state can offer free summer learning this year because they got money from the federal government. In total, Ohio received nearly $490 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding. This money was made available starting in March. It will be there for schools to use until the Fall of 2022. Congressional leaders voted this money through during the COVID relief bill in early 2021.
The Lakewood district got more than $1 million in funding while Cleveland Municipal School District will have more than $31 million to use. Smaller districts in the state also got financial support from Washington, D.C. Medina City Schools got more than $400,000 in money from Congress.
"So our in-person summer school is registration is closed right now," said Tina Cassidy the Director of Instruction with the district.
The Medina district is also offering online and self-paced learning programs this summer. Those programs still have open spots.
"We did need to have a cutoff date so that we could hire staff and get everything situated," Cassidy said.
The district didn't have any issues finding staff to come back to teach over their summer break. The opposite is true in Lakewood.
"We have actually had to look outside of the district," Palumbo said. "So we've contacted a lot of teachers that don't normally teach in Lakewood and said we'd love it if you would be interested in working with us this summer."
The district did get enough educators to work over the break to run all the programs they have available for students. Akron Public Schools is also looking for teachers.
"We're looking to fill but I would say we're about 80%," said Rachel Tecca.
APS got more than $10 million in federal money to support it through summer learning. Tecca said that money helped teachers plan some of the programs offered this year.
"I think that creativity spurned their desire to work this summer and provide these programs," she said.
Akron is offering non-traditional programs like mystery camps for elementary students. There are also cosmetology and manufacturing classes if students want to take them. Like the other districts, the summer programs in APS are free for students.
"It is all free," Tecca said. "You can take them all."