Sometimes it takes just a small idea to create a ripple of change.That is what is happening in the Washougal School District this summer.
At Hathaway Elementary School, students from pre-kindergarten through high school level are receiving extra academic help, along with free, nutritious lunches; and they are participating in enrichment activities.
This is the result of a collaboration between district administrators, teachers, staff, health centers and local volunteers.
“Even just at the beginning of this program, the level of conversation, the amount of attention each of these kids are able to receive, is so beneficial,” said David Tudor, curriculum director.
Summer programs include credit recovery for high school students, instructional help for first- through eighth-graders with identified educational needs and the “Ready, Set, Kindergarten,” program for youngsters who will start school in the fall. The middle school program is held at Jemtegaard, but the students are bussed to Hathaway for lunch.
In addition, the district’s food service provider, Sodexo, is once again serving a free summer lunch program to all children ages 1 to 18 through Aug. 18. The program is funded through a federal USDA grant. However, this year, local churches and Sodexo have also chipped in, so that adults can enjoy a meal with the children.
“In our first week, we fed more than 400 students and community members, which is huge,” Tudor said.
SeaMar Community Health Centers will be able to continue existing counseling for qualifying students instead of missing the summer months when buildings are normally closed.
After lunch, students can participate in outdoor activities, led by volunteers, which range from crafts to soccer.
This past spring, volunteers stepped forward from several local churches, including Bethel Community Church, Living Purpose Church, Calvary Community Church, Riverside Church, Warehouse Christian Church and River Rock Church.
“They had specifically expressed an interest in providing community service directed toward our youth,” Tudor said.
“Each church will provide 6 to 8 volunteers for a given week. We have adults out here to help lead games, hold jump ropes, lead arts and crafts projects and even just push kids on the swings.”
The volunteers received training in the spring. which was focused on creating positive behavior interactions with the kids.
Ben Lundberg, pastor of Living Purpose Church in Washougal, enjoys helping lead activities.
“I hang out with the kids, read to them and chat with them at lunch and play soccer,” he said. “We don’t promote anything, just enjoy being with the kids. I don’t know how many adult figures they have to just goof off with them.”
Tudor added that last year, a free lunch was served, but there were no activities or special programs involved.
“This one idea of looking at a pre-k program expanded to include all of these components,” he said. “We wouldn’t be able to offer it without teachers and para educators who are covering our classes, as well as the support from faith-based organizations.”
He said Lisa Young, early learning center technician, approached him in the spring with the idea of screening children entering kindergarten to give additional support to those who needed educational help before school begins in the fall.
“What we’ve noticed is that a significant number of students who entered the Hathaway program were below benchmarks,” he said.
“We had a need, and wanted to close that gap before it starts. It’s really Lisa’s idea. All her hard work made it happen.
Young added that she has asked for the program in the past, but that Tudor’s enthusiasm helped make it happen this year.
“This all came together in conjunction with Allen Fleck’s (special services director) program for kids in first through fifth-grade too,” she said. “We’re helping our youngest kids be ready for kindergarten and helping build parent relationships, too. We are focusing on academics, but also what a kindergarten schedule looks like so they will be prepared.”
The various programs are being paid for with donations, volunteers and Title 1 funds.
As of last week, 106 students participated in the kindergarten through eighth-grade programs, and approximately 25 high school students participated in credit recovery.
The student-to-teacher ratio is approximately 7:1.
“The new summer reading and math curriculums are designed to accelerate student learning and help students maintain skills over the summer,” Tudor said. “The materials are highly interactive and fun for the students.”
As Tudor sat on a bench at the Hathaway playground, spending time playing with the children and helping mediate disputes when needed, he reflected on everything happening at the school this summer.
“There are so many community connections that came together at just the right time.”