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Cleveland mayor and schools CEO go door-to-door with info on summer youth programs

Bibb Gordon door knocking
Conor Morris
Ideastream Public Media
Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon, left, and Cleveland Mayor knock on doors to spread the word about summer learning programs in the city on May 11, 2023.

Outgoing Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon and Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb knocked on doors Thursday in the Woodland Hills neighborhood to promote CMSD’s summer learning program and other opportunities at city recreation centers.

Bibb and Gordon were promoting a whole slate of free programming, with summer camps and music and arts programming – along with academic credit recovery – at 27 sites across CMSD, along with other offerings at Cleveland’s 22 recreation centers.

Bibb said there are hundreds of programs and “thousands” of resources that exist but many families don’t know they exist. Officials said they’ll be doing more canvasses throughout the city.

“We want to make sure we're in the neighborhoods, talking to families, talking to students to make sure they have really productive things to do to keep them safe this summer,” Bibb said.

Gordon said families can sign up now for CMSD’s Summer Learning Experience, for either a full day or half day starting in mid-June. He said 2,500 young people have signed up already. Free transportation is available in the form of school buses for kindergarten through eighth grade students to and from school sites, and free bus passes for high school students. Lunch and breakfast is also provided.

Sonya Pryor-Jones, Cleveland’s chief of youth and family success, said summer programming keeps young people occupied and out of trouble, but that’s only a secondary benefit. She said the primary benefit is keeping them active both mentally and physically, helping to reduce summer learning loss.

“When young people are engaged in active, thoughtful programing over the summer, it helps them retain the learning that they've been engaged in all year long,” she said.

Pryor-Jones noted the recreation centers have new programming in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, including robotics and e-sports. Meanwhile, each center now has a “social support specialist,” who are social workers or counselors, meant to help families who are struggling.

Gordon said the district has put a lot of effort into revamping its summer learning programs since the pandemic; whereas before there were only a few hundred students attending summer learning prior to the pandemic, there were 8,000 participants in the first year of CMSD’s revamped summer programming and 6,500 participants last year.

High school students will have access to employment and internship opportunities, according to CMSD’s website. Say Yes Cleveland’s family support specialists and health specialists will also be assigned to each site. There will be three summer learning sites for high schoolers on the city’s east side and four on the west side, and 10 on each side of the city for kindergarten-through-eighth-grade students.

Families can sign up for the CMSD Summer Learning Experience by going to CMSD’s website.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.