5 school districts, charter school launch program to help all Wilmington seniors thrive

Betsy Price Education, Headlines

The school districts that serve Wilmington are combining forces to help the seniors of 2022 be as prepared as possible.

 

The five school districts serving a slice of Wilmington and a downtown charter school are joining efforts to help the city’s 500 rising seniors have the best senior year possible.

The new Boost’22 program will allow Wilmington seniors in the the Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Red Clay as well as Freire Charter School Wilmington to share educational programs and experiences such as college visits, regardless of which system offers them. 

It will effectively make opportunities available to all Wilmington seniors, not just the few who live in a certain district.

While the program could help some catch up on lost learning, the real goal is to help launch the students into the next phase of their lives, said Dr. Jeffrey Menzer, superintendent of  Colonial School District.

“If we can get students across the finish line with a diploma and a ticket to their next level, whether it’s college, career, workforce or the military, so that they’re going to come out productive citizens in the community of Wilmington, that that’s kind of a win-win all around,” Menzer said. “It’s an immediate short term investment in the future of Wilmington, and quite frankly we feel like it’s something that most people in the community can get around.”

Menzer said the idea grew from listening to Redding Consortium for Educational Equity discussions about challenges in the city of Wilmington.

It’s a tangible result for the consortium, which was born about two years ago.

“I am very excited and thrilled to see the announced and you have any credit for that given to Redding,” said Elizabeth “Tizzie” Lockman, a co-chair of the operating commission and founding member. “It really is very much in line with our vision.”

One of the things the organization hoped to do is spark conversations across districts and charter schools.

“So it’s just very gratifying to see that coming to fruition in some way,” Lockman said. “To groups like Redding and those that  have come before us, it’s very clear that divisions across districts, particularly within the city of Wilmington, have created real challenges and barriers in a kind of arbitrary way. Anything that allows us to rise above that to provide resources for students in really promising … and I look forward to following it. I hope that we can support and study what happens and encourage more of that.”

While some of the Boost’22 group’s focus will be helping the seniors of 2022 catch up on lost learning because of the way the COVID-19 pandemic affected schools, much if it will be more common-sense things, Menzer said.

Colonial schools serve the East Side Riverside area, he said, but many live next to students who are going to other school districts or charter schools.

“Those students live in my community,” Menzer said. “Would it not make sense that if something is going on at William Penn, we can get them to William Penn or get them involved with Colonial School District around preparing for graduation or beyond?”

In the past, he said, everybody looked at all aspects of a student’s life as the sole responsibility of a home district. Boost’22 wants to change that.

“It’s about looking at the students as a collective community, as one whole group and we’re going to share our resources to get them across the finish line, ready for the next state of their lives,” he said.

The program is not expected to cost anything extra as it launches, and the districts and Freire are designating people in each district to handle the program.

One example, Menzer said, would be a senior day trip to visit Delaware Technical Community College, Goldey-Beacom College of the University of Delaware.

“I have only 22 students that live in the city of Wilmington to go to William Penn,” he said. “Why would we not invite any students from the 11th grade who  in live in the Colonial School District? Even if they go to another district, they still should be invited.”

Instead of a visit by William Penn students, it becomes a visit by Wilmington students, he said.

Colonial can easily create a bus route that would pick up the other students for the day, he said.

“Now we’re doubling down on our resources, but we’re supporting the community,” he said.

Another example, he said, could be helping seniors fulfill their class requirements for graduation. It is common, he said, for students to find out he or she needs a class when their records are checked before senior year. That can occur for many reasons, such as moving in or out of a system.

If a student needs a half-credit of science they can’t get at their own school because of schedule conflicts, there’s no reason that student shouldn’t be able to attend a William Penn program, Menzer said.

Among the things Boost’22 hopes to do are:

  • Enhance existing district programs to help more students remain in school and on track to graduate on time with the Class of 2022 
  • Coordinate resource sharing among the five school districts and Freire Charter School
  • Increase pandemic-related student engagement 
  • Partner with research-based dropout prevention programs 
  • Expand access and opportunity to accelerate learning and preparation for post-secondary success 

The program is sending letters to the families of Wilmington’s seniors of 2022 to tell them about the program.

“We expect some programming to be offered beginning this summer and throughout all of next school year.,” the letter said. “You will receive specific information from your school district (or charter school) as programs are scheduled.”

Among the Redding Consortium’s goals are to provide a funding for schools and to look at redistricting. Its next meeting is Monday at 5 p.m. For more, go to the consortium’s website.

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