New Haven Public Schools is working to combat the usual dread students feel for school on Saturday, combining math and reading sessions with fun and food at four New Haven schools.
Earlier this month, Fair Haven School, Troup School, Wexler-Grant Community School and Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy launched Saturday Academies, optional morning sessions that provide additional education and enrichment activities for students ranging from third to eight grade. Students whose parents enroll them in the program are in school from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. each week. Just weeks into the program, teachers and administrators involved in Saturday Academies are already optimistic about its potential.
“We wanted to provide extra academic support for our students while also really stressing the importance of social and emotional learning and team building,” said Adriana Joseph, deputy chief of youth, family and community engagement at NHPS, adding that NHPS endeavored to make the program “exciting and enticing” for students.
Each Saturday begins with a cold breakfast and team-building activities that give students the opportunity to interact with one and another and with their teachers, Joseph said. Students then study for two hours before choosing from a variety of activities, including outdoor games and art. The school day ends with lunch, which is also provided.
But bringing students to school on a Saturday is not the only change NHPS is making through Saturday Academies. The district is also investing in Chromebooks to support student learning and growth, Joseph said.
She explained that enrollment has increased as students have heard about the program from friends. She said students are excited to use the technology and see their friends for an extra day in the week.
Saturday Academies were originally supposed to begin in December, but the program’s launch was postponed to allow students more time to enroll.
Although students can only attend Saturday Academies if the school they are enrolled in offers the program, Joseph said the district hopes to expand Saturday Academy enrollment so that any student can attend, even if the Academy they apply to is not based in their school.
NHPS Chief Operating Officer William Clark said Saturday Academies are the result of Mayor Toni Harp’s education initiatives combining with the work of NHPS and the superintendent’s vision.
Clark added that the meals provided during the program are an additional benefit for students who come from homes that are food-insecure.
Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy Principal Pam Franco said students at the school already enrolled in the Saturday Academy are excited about the program.
“Every week I ask [students] what they like about [the Saturday Academy] and they keep telling me ‘everything,’” she said.
Franco added that although there have only been two sessions so far due to last week’s snowstorm, she has already noted a reduction in disciplinary problems during the normal school week.
Roughly 90 students at Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy are enrolled in Saturday Academy.