Summer in the Kingston City School District (KCSD) isn’t just about students making up credits while staring forlornly out a classroom window as the months between school years pass by. This year, the district’s summer schedule is more popular than ever before, with over 1,000 students participating in a variety of programs.
“The attendance and the number of people that want to come back in and be in our school during the summer is really encouraging,” said superintendent Paul Padalino. “And to kind of trick kids into learning, it’s a good opportunity.”
Padalino said the public may have the perception that school districts shut down over the summer, but that’s not the case in Kingston.
“I think people think it’s like the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer around here in the school district,” Padalino said. “But we’re bringing more kids in to our schools during the summer than Onteora has enrolled during the regular school year.”
The KCSD is running five summer programs geared toward different grade levels, K-3, 5-8, 10-12, special education, and its already popular Summer 9 program for incoming high schoolers.
“Summer 9 has kicked off very well,” said Kira Tutko, principal of the program and a literacy specialist at George Washington Elementary School during the standard school year. “The kids come in smiling, look forward to the day’s work, and a lot of times they even try to stay later.”
Padalino said much of the success of the district’s summer programming can be attributed to community partners like the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Peaceful Guardians and Family of Woodstock in the grades 5-8 program; and Wild Earth, Career in Touch, Youth Ensemble Theater, Go Beyond Greatness and the Kingston Police Department (KPD) for the Summer 9 program. Many of the community partners offer opportunities for students to learn through non-traditional experiences both in and out of the classroom.
“We’re lucky that we have a lot of great community partners, a lot of great organizations out there who are doing work since forever with us,” Padalino said. “It’s been really nice to have them there, and I think it’s good for the kids to not only see their teachers, but see other people and get hands-on experiences with those folks.”
During a recent event, the KPD conducted an interactive lesson centered on the dangers of driving under the influence (DUI) with the Summer 9 program. Using cutting-edge simulators and equipment, students were given a realistic experience of the disorienting effects and impairments caused by various substances. The KPD used a driving simulator to allow students to virtually take the wheel, with technological enhancements, including DUI goggles that give the user similar difficulties handling a vehicle as they might under impaired conditions. Wearing the goggles, students were asked to perform mundane tasks like walking in a straight line, and throwing and catching a tennis ball.
In addition to academic and societal offerings, students have the chance to do everything from work with music and theater, to learn about nature, while bonding with their classmates.
The KCSD’s summer programming is operating out of Kingston High School, M. Clifford Miller Middle School and John F. Kennedy Elementary School, with Harry L. Edson Elementary hosting students with disabilities courses.
Padalino said expanding the district’s summer slate beyond credit recovery and the already popular Summer 9 programming first came about during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Summer 9 was an opportunity for eighth graders coming into the ninth grade to earn credit and participate in other classes, but also to have some of our community partners do some team-building, some relationship work, some agricultural work, and a lot of different things,” Padalino said. “Coming out of COVID we thought, why don’t we do that across the board?”
It’s not only proven popular, but district officials feel the summer programming has also helped pick up the pace after the pandemic.
“To get kids back into school, get them back into the buildings, feed them, we’re doing these things that will help us close that learning loss gap,” Padalino said. “And you mix that in with the classes that they need, and the remediation they need or any kind of improvement they may need to make for the next year. And we’ve extended the hours also, so I think it helps parents by being able to have their kids here for a longer period of time during the day.”