By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
WAYNESBORO — Waynesboro Schools Summer Enrichment Program has put the fun in summer school this year.
Implemented by the school system to enable students who might have experienced a gap in virtual learning during the pandemic, the program began June 7.
From Mondays to Thursdays at Wenonah and William Perry Elementary schools through June 24, sixth, seventh and eighth grade students attend academic instruction for about 90 minutes every morning, followed by afternoons of activities made possible through local partnerships.
A second session will run July 6 to 22 at Berkeley Glenn and Westwood Hills Elementary schools.
“I’m just really excited about the collective effort between the Y, Waynesboro Schools and The Wayne,” said Waynesboro YMCA Executive Director Jeff Fife. “It’s pretty powerful.”
The partnership also includes the Office on Youth, Waynesboro Parks & Recreation and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.
Patrick Crute, executive director of the Virginia Alliance of YMCAs, visited Wenonah Elementary School Monday as part of a tour of YMCAs in Virginia meant to inform the Virginia General Assembly about programs like Waynesboro Schools’ Summer Enrichment Program. Legislation is underway which would provide $1 million in state funding for similar programs across Virginia.
“If we tweak a little bit, there is an opportunity for us to continue this program next year [with state funding],” Fife said.
Fife added that interestingly, in recent years, time for physical education and the arts have lessened in public schools.
“And to sort of bring this summer loss program together,” Fife said, is returning the arts to Waynesboro students.
Students at Wenonah Elementary participate in 45-minute rotations at different activity stations throughout the school and get through the stations in two afternoons, including yoga, theater, dance, music and storytelling, then they go to the YMCA for water safety lessons.
According to The Wayne Theatre Executive Director Tracy Straight, 16 staff members from the theater are helping with the summer program.
“We’re excited to help,” Straight said. “The kids get a full hour of dance, theater, art and storytelling twice a week.”
What Waynesboro students are experiencing through this year’s summer program is an extension of The Wayne Theatre’s Studio Wayne offerings.
“To be able to connect with Waynesboro school system, the Wayne was very excited about,” Straight said.
John Harris is a physical education teacher at William Perry Elementary School and working toward a degree in administration from Liberty University which he will complete in the fall.
Then he will be looking for a position as a principal.
This summer, Harris is Waynesboro Schools’ Enrichment Academy Director. He said from the plan he saw of the program before summer began, he “was fully prepared” for the position.
“Jeff and [Waynesboro Schools and other partners] did a great job at laying [the summer program] out,” said Harris.
The program has given him and staff opportunities to more so interact with students and families than they would have an opportunity to do so during the academic year.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far,” he said.
Between an academic component every morning “and they know they have an enrichment piece in the afternoon,” Harris said that students are excited “about being at school.”