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Summer Enrichment Program sees changes
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Summer Enrichment Program sees changes

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The Sizzling Summer Enrichment Program (SSEP) will be looking different this year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is funded by the Community and Family Partnership and coordinated by the Columbus Area United Way and Columbus Public Schools.

Previously, SSEP entailed a three-week-long program during which Columbus Public Schools children in kindergarten and first and second grade attended weekday morning courses led by certified teachers that focused on improving their reading. Often, it also included activities by United Way partners such as the Columbus Public Library and the East-Central District Health Department.

“We continue to support them in reading and we incorporated a community piece in that,” said Jason Harris, executive director of students services for Columbus Public Schools.

But, this year’s program is changing quite a bit due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

“Since we don’t feel comfortable holding it, this week we are handing out activity bags,” said Tammy Bichlmeier, director of community impact at the Columbus Area United Way.

The bags include reading books, a coloring book, sidewalk chalk and puzzles.

They will be handed out in conjunction with the lunch program from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those at the lunch program will be asked if they have a child who just finished kindergarten or is in first or second grade.

“If so, then each of those kids will be given a bag,” Bichlmeier said.

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On Tuesday, bags will be distributed at Columbus Middle School, Emerson Elementary School, Lost Creek Elementary School and North Park Elementary. Thursday, bags will be handed out at Centennial Elementary School, West Park Elementary, Duncan Village Hall and Carriage House Estates Park. Families are asked to choose only one location as the number of bags is limited.

“We felt it was important to continue programming,” Harris said.

Bichlmeier added that keeping children active during the summer months helps enhance their education.

“We know that during the summer it’s important to keep kids active and busy,” Bichlmeier said.

Although this year’s program is open to all families, preference is given to those of low economic status and/or children for whom English is a second language.

“We want to keep that summer learning going to help keep them successful in school,” Bichlmeier noted.

Harris said the program started four years ago to “close the gap of the summer slide” in which children who may be behind in reading fall even further behind.

“It’s important for students to be reading at or above third grade,” Harris said, noting that those children are not on track for that goal were previously recommended by their teacher to attend SSEP.

“This year we’re focusing on any student from K-2.”

Hannah Schrodt is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at hannah.schrodt@lee.net.

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