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DoDEA ends summer enrichment program amid declining participation

Stars & Stripes
Kaiserslautern, Germany | April 14, 2014

The Department of Defense Education Activity is closing the book on a part-day math and language arts summer enrichment program that’s been offered at some of its schools since 2004.

The decision was made to end the K-8 program, held at 58 locations worldwide, because of a decline in participation and a high absentee rate during the last three summers, DoDEA officials said. The move will save the agency $1.7 million annually.

“In the current climate of identifying and realizing efficiencies in light of reduced budgets, we strive to make decisions that do not impact the classroom during the regular school year,” DoDEA spokeswoman Elaine Kanellis said in an email to Stars and Stripes. In this case, Kanellis said, “we think our resources are better directed toward funding programs that would benefit more students across DODEA for the long-term.”

Summer enrichment spanned four weeks, three hours a day. Students in kindergarten to eighth grade were eligible to attend the free morning classes, often offered in a multi-age format.

The program was intended to keep students engaged in learning, with an emphasis on math and language arts; it was not remedial in nature, officials said.

In 2013, 5,829 students enrolled in the program. But in all three areas across DODEA, actual participation dropped by a combined 27 percent by the time summer rolled around, DODEA officials said. Those students who joined the program were absent an average of 5.5 days during the 19-day program, DODEA officials said.

The downward trend in participation and attendance goes back three years, Kanellis said.

Deb Pohlmann, DoDEA’s coordinator for early childhood education, said students registered for the program in March, and in some cases, their plans changed by the time summer enrichment began.

“When we send out applications, we try to be very clear to parents … we really want them to commit to it” since spaces are limited, Pohlmann said. Many times, she said, something better comes up or they decide to take a vacation.

“The commitment was maybe not as firm as we would have liked,” she said.

Last summer, 255 classes were offered.

Summer enrichment began as a pilot program at four schools in Europe in 2004, as military deployments from the theater to Iraq began rising. In some military communities, such as Baumholder, there was a real need for a summer program at the time, as some families couldn’t afford summer travel back to the States while a parent was deployed, Pohlmann said.

In 2005, the program was expanded to include schools in the Pacific and stateside. For the first two years, the military funded the program. Since 2006, DODEA has paid for it, officials said. Teacher salaries comprised about 67 percent of the summer enrichment program budget, according to DODEA officials.

Kellie Klaver, who teaches seventh-grade science at Wiesbaden Middle School, was the lead teacher for her school’s summer enrichment program last summer.

“The vast majority of students found it to be a positive, engaging and rewarding part of their time away from traditional school,” she wrote in an email.

The opportunity gave students a chance to participate in enriching educational experiences while still being able to swim, travel, hang out with friends and other fun activities in the afternoon, she said. “It struck a good balance for the students.”

At Ramstein Intermediate School, where 84 students participated in summer enrichment last year, including those from other nearby schools in Kaiserslautern, notification has already gone out to parents about the program’s discontinuation, said principal Jennifer Remoy.

So far, she’s heard no complaints or concerns, she said.

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