Summer programs abound as school year ends

For some school district employees, working with students doesn’t end with the afternoon bell on the last day of classes.

While many teachers and administrators are on vacation or preparing for the next school year, others are making sure that children in need are getting scholastic and nutritional help.

“Our goal is to work with the community to help do our part,” said Bernice Tukes, supervisor of the free summer meal program in Bibb County.

Last summer, the program -- which also offers meals to children from outside the county -- provided more than 62,000 breakfasts and more than 136,000 lunches, averaging more than 6,800 meals given out per day.

During the school year, some students get only the two meals provided during school hours. The concern is that those same children might not be fed properly once school is out.

“It’s our way of trying to help parents with getting meals to kids during the summer,” Tukes said.

The program runs from June 8-July 17, and it isn’t just about getting students empty calories. Tukes said the menu is planned with vegetables, fruits and other healthy options in mind to make sure children are getting the proper nutrition.

“We try to do this so that kids can still receive fruits and vegetables during the summer,” she said. “Eating healthy kind of helps go hand in hand with learning.”

Bibb County is also providing learning opportunities during the summer months.

The first program is an opportunity funded by a Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs grant. The two-week course in early June is for ninth- and 10th-graders who weren’t successful in coordinate algebra.

“That math seems to be a big stickler in most districts,” said Sylvia Hooker, an assistant superintendent for school improvement.

Coordinate algebra won’t be offered anymore after this school year after being replaced by another algebra, so Hooker said it’s important that students pass it now.

The regular course credit recovery program will run from June 5-July 17 at the Hutchings College and Career Academy and will focus on core areas, with math being the most common subject needed, Hooker said. Without the opportunity to recover credits over the summer, she said it would be easy for students to get far enough behind that they lose hope.

“That gives potential to kind of give up on the educational process altogether,” she said, noting that a full schedule of courses would be available on the school district website.

For other students, the summer offers a chance to get ahead instead of catching up.

The Advanced Placement Summer Academy will be offered June 15-18 and June 22-25 at Central High School for all students enrolled in AP courses.

Central High math teacher Daniel Brown is coordinating the program, which includes AP teachers from other schools.

“The goal is to help students refine their academic skills in preparation for these more rigorous Advanced Placement courses,” he said.

He noted that the students who would use their free time for such an endeavor are “very goal-oriented,” adding that about 130 students have signed up so far. That’s in line with the program’s capacity with current staffing.

“Ideally, as we build the program, we want to build it up to 200 students,” Brown said.

The other programs aren’t certain yet how many students they’ll be supporting, but Tukes said she knows the nutrition program could be reaching more, despite the number of meals they distributed last summer.

“We still didn’t reach a whole lot of kids,” she said. “In certain areas of Macon we still didn’t have enough sponsors.”

Serving as a sponsor requires no financial commitment, just an application process. Sponsors provide the location for the meals to be distributed and pick up the meals each morning.

Meals can be distributed at churches, recreation centers or other large gathering areas, but not at a private home. The program even serves meals inside a bus and a van in some neighborhoods.

“There is no limit,” she said.

Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor for the summer nutrition program can call Tukes at 779-2600.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.