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Summer education program keeps learning afloat

School may be out for summer, but that doesn’t mean the learning is over.

Step inside Mill Creek Elementary in Madison, Providence Elementary in Huntsville, Madison County Elementary in Gurley, and other select schools throughout the Tennessee Valley, and you’ll hear a sound that is an unusual one for summer – children laughing, playing, and most importantly, learning.

It’s called the Summer Adventures in Learning program, and it’s designed to curb a problem that occurs nationwide every year – summer learning loss. On average, students lose two months of math skills over the course of summer vacation, according to the National Summer Learning Association, which can lead to more than three weeks of instruction that have to be repeated at the beginning of the school year. Low-income students are particularly impacted by summer learning loss, losing about two to three months of learning skills each year, while fellow students who come from more financially-stable families typically see a slight gain. SAIL works to remedy that, providing students with an avenue to continue their education in subjects such as math, reading, character development and life skills, all under the guise of fun.

“The SAIL collaborative brings together our three school systems, it brings together funders, it brings together program partners, to make sure that we are being intentionally academic with as many students as possible over the summer so they are ready for school to start,” said Elizabeth Dotts Fleming, executive director of The Schools Foundation.

It’s an outreach that works. Originally developed in Birmingham, the program was piloted in Huntsville in 2017, during which students saw 2.3 months of reading gains and 1.1 months of math gains, according to the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville. Six sites are up and running across Madison County this summer, thanks to collaboration between Huntsville City Schools, Madison City Schools, Madison County Schools, The Schools Foundation, the Community Foundation, the Heart of the Valley YMCA, The C.A.R.E. Center, and the American Baseball Foundation – all entities that are committed to improving student outcomes. This year the program had 28 unique donors, whose gifts ranged from $25 to $25,000.

The Heart of the Valley YMCA, in collaboration with The C.A.R.E. Center, supports three sites in Madison County Schools.

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