Summer Adventure

Hueneme ESD Summer Adventure program featured in the VC STAR:


Demand, funding spur summer school opportunities

Shivani Patel Ventura County Star | USA TODAY NETWORK

It was a busy Wednesday morning at Sunkist Elementary School in Port Hueneme as students across campus painted, made origami sculptures and built Bluetooth speakers — a dramatic turnaround from the pandemic-related shuttering of classrooms last summer.

The classes are part of Hueneme Elementary School District's new "Summer Adventure,'" a program that aims to make up for lost learning opportunities during the pandemic while continuing. program to acclimate them to a classroom environment.

Whether through schools or local Boys & Girls Clubs, many students in California are participating in summer enrichment programs with the help of state funding from a $6.6 billion education law enacted in March. Part of the money was designated for grants for supplemental learning and summer programs.

The funding has allowed schools in Ventura county to provide more summer classes like those in the Hueneme school district.

About a fourth of the nearly 600 students enrolled in Hueneme’s Summer Adventure program had been attending school remotely all year, according to district officials.

Fifth graders Emely Olea, from left Amy Ramos Pineda, Tessa Hottendorf and Melisa Gomez assemble robots Wednesday under the guidance of their teacher, Taylor Martenies, at Sunkist Elementary School in Port Hueneme. The robotics lessons are one of the enrichment activities in the school's summer program. ANTHONY PLASCENCIA/THE STAR

The program has 60 teachers running 45 classes across four schools.

“The energy from the teachers and the kids, I mean it’s just infectious,” said Helen Cosgrove, the district’s Associate Superintendent of Educational Services.

The program promotes project-based learning and problem-solving with a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math — more commonly known as STEAM learning.

Imani Mister, a fifth grader, said she thinks the program is good but doesn’t like waking up early.

Her favorite class project is the one she’s working on now, building a Bluetooth speaker. The students were given kits and follow along as instructors show them what to do.

At Sunkist on Wednesday, Lily Flores, an instructor with the nonprofit group Art Trek, helped second graders paint. She works in Conejo Valley Unified School District during the school year, but this is her summer job.

Flores helps Spanish speaking students where needed. She said she’s loving the program so far, and the kids seem to be enjoying it as well.

Hueneme Superintendent Christine Walker said she noticed students who had been learning from home were subdued when classes reopened in the spring.

“When kids came back in the spring, they were very quiet and not interacting with each other,” Walker said. “I remember going on to the junior high campus, and I couldn’t believe how quiet it was.”

That helped inform planning for the summer program, which began in March because it was dependent on state funding.

A focus in Hueneme was to give enrolled students an interactive, positive experience to help smooth the way for a fulltime schedule in the fall. Similarly, Oxnard School District Superintendent Karling Aguilera-Fort said summer school has been helpful in fine-tuning and implementing COVID-19 safety guidelines the district is preparing to use in the fall.

In Ventura Unified School District, enrollment increased from 2,896 last summer to around 5,300 this summer for a few reasons.

“It is hard to compare this year to other years as Ventura Unified offered a much wider variety of programs this summer than we have in the past (to) address needs around learning loss and social-emotional health,” said district spokesperson Marieanne Quiroz.

Last year, the district’s programming was online due to the pandemic. This year, it is offering in-person programs to students in first through eighth grade and mixed in-person and independent study programs to high schoolers.

For example, there are high school credit recovery courses and enrichment camps like woodshop and theater for younger students.

“There’s been a pretty heavy demand this summer because there were quite a few kiddos who needed to make up coursework,” Weintraub said. 

Oxnard Union High School District didn’t see much of an increase in summer enrollment this year, according to Superintendent Tom McCoy. It generally starts out around 4,000, which has held true this year.

Typically, he said there’s a drop from the number of kids who enroll and who actually attend the programming.

McCoy pointed out that one of the things that’s been hard for everyone is trying to find some time to rest and recharge.

“With the stress of the last two years, some people just need a moment,” McCoy said.

Shivani Patel covers education for The Star as a Report for America corps member. Reach her at shivani.patel@ or 805603-6573. She is also on Twitter at @shivaaanip.

Second-grader Bowie Anciano colors a clown Wednesday in a summer enrichment program at Sunkist Elementary School in Port Hueneme. ANTHONY PLASCENCIA/THE STAR