On Nov. 1, School District 65 administrators outlined preliminary thoughts on ways to revamp and revitalize the extended-day and the extended-year programs that are intended to assist struggling students.

Assistant Superintendent Susan Schultz said, “Overall the goal is to revise extended-day/extended year to increase grade level achievement and to address college readiness standards. We’re going to do that through addressing student engagement/motivation, looking at more project based learning and applied learning experiences.”

Ms. Schultz added, “We are really revising the way we think.”

Some of the concepts being explored are to embed engaging enrichment activities within the curriculum and to explore using technology as a means to engage students.

Some of the ideas that have been discussed are to use drama, robotics, digital arts, filmmaking, book clubs and sustainability projects to enhance instruction in the extended-day and extended-year programs.

The administration is also considering changing the structure of the extended year program by offering “wrap-up classes” for two or three weeks after school is out for the summer and “jump start” classes two or three weeks before school starts. Ms. Shultz said some other possible structures include developing “camps,” such as a math camp or a fine arts performance camp; developing heterogeneous learning groups, so the classes would not be limited to struggling students; developing partnerships with universities, businesses and community agencies; and developing partnerships to provide apprenticeship experiences for children.

The District is also exploring new structures for the extended-day program, which might include offerings on Saturdays.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy said students have seen extended-day and extended-year as a punishment. “This entire effort is to transform it into a much more powerful learning experience, and with these new kinds of activities, hopefully engage students more and actually make them feel excited about being in a summer school learning experience.”

To implement the programs, the District will need to develop a curriculum, retain skilled teachers and provide professional development, said Ms. Shultz. She added that the administration was cognizant of budgetary issues.

If the programs are offered to students who are not struggling, Ms. Shultz said the current thinking is that students who are eligible for free or reduced fee lunch would be given a scholarship; other students would be charged a fee to participate in the program.

The plan is to initially focus on the fourth- to seventh-grade levels and phase in a part of the program next summer and to phase in the extended-day program next year.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...