Second grade teacher Ms. Zellmer watches students, who are entering third grade next school year, design their own playgrounds using blocks during summer school at Barton Elementary School Thursday, July 7, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Thousands of students have signed up for the Long Beach Unified School District’s summer programs this year, a sharp rebound as the programs return for the first time without COVID-imposed social distancing mandates.

Brian Moskovitz, who serves as Assistant Superintendent of Early Learning & Elementary Schools at LBUSD, did not have data on last year’s attendance numbers, but he said participation this year—which he placed at more than 10,000 students—is noticeably higher.

“Last year, we were able to offer an in-person program, but I think there was still some apprehension on the part of families of sending their kids,” Moskovitz said.

The bump in attendance comes as the state offers new funding that is expected to help significantly improve and expand the district’s summer programming.

The state’s Expanded Learning Opportunities Program (ELO-P), which was approved last year, provides annual funding to districts for after school and summer school programs that “are pupil-centered, results driven, include community partners, and complement, but do not replicate, learning activities in the regular school day and school year,” according to the state’s website on the program.

Moskovitz said the state funding will bring in approximately $18 million more for programs on a yearly basis.

“Our plan is to essentially double the size of … our summer programming,” he said.

One program slated to benefit is LBUSD’s Winners Reach Amazing Potential (WRAP), which is offered to elementary school students and extends afterschool academic assistance programs held during the academic year into a more relaxed and enriching summer program. While the programming during the school year focuses on academics, the summer agenda offers a much wider range of activities.

Summer topics range from art to science to drama, and kids are taken on weekly field trips. Activities are tailored to students’ interests, Moskovitz said.

“They’re able to go around the community, sometimes [by] walking and sometimes on a school bus,” Moskovitz said. “They do have kind of a sports theme, so there’s a lot of physical activity.”

This program has been running for 15 years and has mainly been funded by a state Afterschool Education and Safety Grant, but the ELO-P has offered a new opportunity to expand.

While the program has been successful over its existence, one of its issues has been a lack of coverage across the district, particularly during the summer.

With the new funding, Moskovitz said the goal is to offer WRAP programs at every elementary, middle and K-8 school in the district.

Currently, during the school year, WRAP programs with community partners like the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club are offered at 58 schools throughout the district, including two high schools: Jordan and Cabrillo. During the summer, 47 sites are offering the program, but several elementary schools like Emerson are not offering WRAP programs at all, instead using other programs like the district’s Kids Club as their enrichment program.

This hasn’t changed since last year, according to Rasheka Henry, Academic Director of the WRAP program, but expansion is set to begin next year with three new sites: Bancroft, Hughes and Stanford middle schools.

Henry said that there are plans to continue expansion on an annual basis, but there is no timeline or end date set for completion.

But ELO-P funding has allowed the shift toward a bigger program to begin.

“We have started expanding a little bit this summer already,” Moskovitz said, “with the idea that we will really move to that doubling by next summer.”

Christian May-Suzuki

Christian May-Suzuki is a reporter at the Long Beach Business Journal.