Har­ris vis­its Caro­line sum­mer learn­ing pro­gram

Times-Record - - NEWS - By ABBY AN­DREWS aan­drews@car­o­line­times­record.com

— U.S. Rep. Andy Har­ris, R-Md.-1st, vis­ited a Caro­line County Sum­mer Learn­ing Pro­gram event Fri­day, July 20, to see first­hand how it ben­e­fits lo­cal chil­dren.

Har­ris was in­vited by Caro­line County Recre­ation and Parks staff, who run the pro­gram through a part­ner­ship with Caro­line County Pub­lic Schools and the county com­mis­sion­ers, to en­cour­age him, as a mem­ber of the House Com­mit­tee on Ap­pro­pri­a­tions, to keep fund­ing for such pro­grams in the fed­eral ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill.

Har­ris said he sup­ports af­ter­school and sum­mer learn­ing pro­grams like those in Caro­line County, and he ex­pects money to fund cru­cial grants to be main­tained.

“Pro­grams like these are im­por­tant in any com­mu­nity, so when kids aren’t in school, they can be busy and learn­ing,” Har­ris said.

Har­ris said the bill has al­ready passed through his com­mit­tee with the grant fund­ing in­tact, but it still has to go through the House and Se­nate.

“I’m con­fi­dent pro­grams like this will stay (in the bill),” Har­ris said.

The event Har­ris vis­ited July 20 at the 4-H park out­side Den­ton was a field trip, bring­ing to­gether stu­dents from the sum­mer learn­ing pro­gram’s three per­ma­nent sites at Den­ton, Greens­boro and Fed­er­als­burg ele­men­tary schools.

Kids who just com­pleted sec­ond through fifth grades came to the park for a day of mu­sic, dance, recre­ation and art ac­tiv­i­ties.

Sue Sim­mons, De­part­ment of Recre­ation and Parks di­rec­tor, said the pro­gram’s three sites reg­is­tered 447 chil­dren this sum­mer, about 150 at each site, who are about to en­ter kinder­garten through sixth grade.

The pro­gram runs for five weeks, Mon­day through Thurs­day, be­gin­ning in late June.

While some of the stu­dents’ par­ents pay a fee for their child to at­tend, many of the stu­dents’ fees are cov­ered by the fed­eral grant fund­ing, which flows through the state and then through the Caro­line County Hu­man Ser vices Coun­cil.

About three-quar­ters of the sum­mer pro­gram’s at­ten­dees qual­ify for free or re­duced meals dur­ing the school year.

“The non­profit part­ner­ship (with the Hu­man Ser­vices Coun­cil) is es­sen­tial,” Sim­mons said.

More money comes from the county com­mis­sion­ers’ bud­get.

“This is so im­por­tant in a ru­ral com­mu­nity, and the lo­cal gov­ern­ment gets that,” Sim­mons said.

The pub­lic school sys­tem pro­vides bus trans­porta­tion, used by many of the kids, as well as meals and cer­ti­fied ed­u­ca­tors who work with the kids aca­dem­i­cally ev­ery day to help pre­vent the “sum­mer slide,” a loss of progress made dur­ing the school year, es­pe­cially among low-in­come stu­dents.

All the part­ner­ships and fund­ing en­sures things like trans­porta­tion and reg­is­tra­tion fees are not a bar­rier to any kid’s par­tic­i­pa­tion, Sim­mons said.

Unique to Caro­line’s sum­mer pro­gram is a req­ui­site pre-reg­is­tra­tion event for par­ents, to dis­trib­ute in­for­ma­tion, in­tro­duce them to the staff and im­press upon them the im­por­tance of mak­ing sure their child at­tends ever y day.

“It’s in­creased reg­u­lar par­tic­i­pa­tion,” Sim­mons said.

Har­ris said he ap­pre­ci­ated the in­no­va­tive ap­proach.

“It gets the par­ents in­volved, and helps them un­der­stand the im­por­tance of get­ting them up ev­ery day and to the pro­gram,” Har­ris said.

Also join­ing Har­ris at the event were Mar yland Sen. Ad­die Eckardt, R-37B, and all three Caro­line County com­mis­sion­ers, Larry Porter, Wil­bur Le­ven­good and Dan Franklin.

PHOTO BY ABBY AN­DREWS

U.S. Rep. Andy Har­ris, right, smiles as a child stretches to show off both of his “ran­dom acts of kind­ness” posted on a dis­play board, dur­ing Har­ris’s visit to a Caro­line County Sum­mer Learn­ing Pro­gram event Fri­day, July 20, at the 4-H park out­side...

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