North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS) doesn’t stop caring for their students when school lets out for the summer. The district recognizes that summer can be an excellent opportunity to help students catch up academically. The Summer Scholars program helps younger students meet grade-level standards and older students complete credits they need for graduation. NTPS also continues to offer consistent, nutritious meals for all students during the summer months. Free breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be provided at sites around the district.

child in mask at a school cafeteria being handed food by a lady
North Thurston Public Schools offers
breakfast, lunch and snacks at various school locations during the summer. All students are welcome to come to eat regardless if they are attending summer school. Photo courtesy: North Thurston Public Schools

“An exciting piece of my job is connecting students who need extra support with our summer school services,” says Kirsten Rue, director of student achievement. Summer school helps maintain learning from the past year and sets students up for success entering their new grade. Recovering from the effects of pandemic stress on learning takes time, and summer is an excellent time to make progress.

The NTPS Summer Scholars program will take place at two locations this year. Mountain View Elementary will host the elementary students, and Timberline High School will host the middle and high schoolers. There is no cost to participate, but students must register ahead of time. All classes run from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., with an optional lunchtime until 12:30 p.m. Elementary students will have regular bus transportation. Middle and high schoolers will need to get to their nearest middle school, where district buses will take them to Timberline.

“We want students to be successful,” says Kirsten. “It is our job to deeply know our students and figure out barriers to learning and how to remove them.” The summer focus includes not only math and reading but social-emotional learning too. Classes might begin with a time for students to work together on a group activity, talk about interests and get to know each other, or discuss ways to handle strong emotions. All students need to build these social-emotional skills as they learn to navigate their lives and their place in our local and global community.

Summer Scholars at North Thurston Public Schools is an excellent opportunity for students who need math or reading support. Photo courtesy: North Thurston Public Schools

The South Sound YMCA also offers a Power Scholars program for elementary students who need supervision in the afternoons from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. “It is a wonderful partnership that allows more students access to summer programs by removing barriers,” says Kirsten. Students must register for the afternoon directly with the YMCA.

Free meals will be served at both Summer Scholars schools, along with other district locations that host summer camps or activities like Playground Pals. Combinations of breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be available at Chambers Prairie Elementary, Lacey Elementary, Lydia Hawk Elementary, and the Boys & Girls Club on Tracey Lane. Students do not need to register for meals but must be 18 years or under and must eat on-site (there are no grab-and-go meals this year). Summer meal service starts June 27 and continues through mid-August. Check the district food and nutrition webpage for meals and times.

Summer meals are funded through the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Some food is purchased through OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction), including meat and dairy products, as well as fresh and canned fruits and vegetables. Creative methods are used to help the funding stretch further, like supplying cheese to the pizza maker, which results in a reduced price for the final product.

A salad bar with a student getting food at North Thurston Public Schools
A salad bar at North Thurston Public Schools allows students to make choices about their lunches.
Photo courtesy: North Thurston Public Schools

Alicia Neal, director of food and nutrition services, oversees the planning and preparation of all student meals, both during the summertime and the school year. “We keep detailed records,” explains Alicia, who adds, “there is not much food waste.” Her team tracks how many students participate in meals at each school and watches for trends. Another successful strategy to reduce waste has been to offer students choice. Each meal consists of five components – protein, vegetable, fruit, grain, and milk. Students can pick three or more, with at least one serving being a fruit or vegetable. With a nod to students’ health, there are very few desserts. “Sometimes there is frozen fruit,” says Alicia, which is an especially refreshing option in the summer.

North Thurston Public Schools is working continuously to provide all students with opportunities to learn and experience success. The district knows that keeping students engaged and nourished during the summer are keys to that success. You can find more details about Summer Scholars and summer meals on the NTPS website.

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