Boston Public Schools anticipates an additional 2,000 students to enroll in summer learning programs this year compared with last year, thanks in part to the expansion of a program that combines enrichment activities with coordinating classroom lessons.
School officials say participation in summer learning this year is on track to surpass last year's record-breaking enrollment of 15,851.
Officials say most of the growth is happening within the district's "5th Quarter" program, which combines enrichment activities such as sailing, basketball and filmmaking with corresponding classroom instruction.
The district is offering 130 5th Quarter programs through July and August, which is a 15% increase from summer 2022. Programming is free and runs between July 10 and Aug. 11 (late registration is an option for families but the window closes Friday). The program operates out of 63 BPS school buildings and via 67 community organizations.
Officials with Boston After School & Beyond, a nonprofit that helps BPS run the summer school offerings, say the 5th Quarter programming is designed to keep kids engaged.
"We are trying to meet young people where they are and where their interests are," said Wil Cardwell, a summer learning program director at the nonprofit. "A lot of these students are here because they need the pro social supports and they need access to other peers and caring adults."
Alba Cruz-Davis, the executive director for expanded learning opportunities at BPS, credits much of the participation increase this year to improved advertising. She said school district liaisons distributed fliers in Boston neighborhoods, including Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, and helped spread a word of mouth campaign among the families they work with.
"The district is utilizing our family liaisons to help families enroll and spread the word," she said. "We have incredible opportunities and we want to make sure our families take advantage of them."
BPS and Boston After School & Beyond are also hoping to make more of the 5th Quarter programming available to students with special needs. Part of that effort involves better communication, said Cardwell.
For instance, the school system worked with the special education department throughout the school year to ensure families knew some opportunities were open to all students.
"[Having a disability] does not bar you from being involved in programs like Courageous Sailing or Sportsmen's Tennis," Cardwell said. He added that he spent much of the previous school year surveying the 5th Quarter partner organizations to gauge their capacity and ability to accommodate students with special needs.
BPS leaders said they also tried to host enrichment programming in many of the same school buildings that provide what's known as Extended School Year, which provides federally mandated services for students with disabilities beyond the 9-month school year.
BPS offers other pillars of summer learning, including the Exam School Initiative, which provides tutoring to students who want to apply for a seat at one of the district's three exam schools. BPS also offers credit recovery opportunities for high school students who did not pass a required class during the school year.