Due to state grant funds, Cambridge-Isanti Schools is creating additional summer programming for students specifically focused on addressing the loss of learning opportunities and experiences during the pandemic.

During the Cambridge-Isanti School Board meeting April 21, Director of Teaching and Learning Brenda Damiani explained Cambridge-Isanti Schools received a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education to fund additional summer programming opportunities.

“Due to the hard work of our finance department and Chris Kampa, as well as a team that gathered to plan for writing that grant, we were awarded a significant amount of money through the Department of Education, so just over $500,000 of very restricted but absolutely needed and very excited about this funding,” Damiani said. “It’s a significant amount that (has) a lot of restrictions because it can only be used this summer with goals of accelerating student learning, providing enrichment opportunities and also mental health support for our students.”

Damiani said while the district currently provides many summer programs, this grant funding will allow the district to create additional programming for students specifically focused on addressing the loss of learning opportunities and experiences during the pandemic. She said some programs will focus on specific grade levels and other new opportunities will be open to all students. New opportunities range from targeted tutoring sessions to a middle school hangout to credit completion.

Director of Community Education Christina Thayer Anderson said a team of staff members had many discussions about what opportunities should be provided to the students for the additional summer programming.

Anderson said some opportunities will be provided for all students including field trip opportunities for students in K-5; a STEAM program for all K-5 students hosted at Isanti Intermediate School; and a middle school hangout with field trip opportunities.

Anderson explained programs for qualifying students include Target Services for students in grades K-8; after-school enrichment coupled with Target Services; targeted tutoring for second and third graders in literacy; a transition for eighth graders entering ninth grade; and a credit completion program at Cambridge-Isanti High School.

“One of the goal areas in the MDE grant is the mental health support and we know the challenges that many of our students have had,” Damiani said. “And as society opens up there are still lasting impacts in students for these past two years. Being able to offer that mental health support with all of our programming is absolutely vital and one of our main goals. So just having that support throughout our summer programming like Christina had mentioned; we will have a counselor or other mental health experts to offer that programming to be able to connect with students and families, do some outreach and support all of our students. So again, one of the restrictions of that funding is that we were able to offer mental health services and that is one of the goal areas.”

Anderson explained the district is working to spread the communication about the summer programming and is busy posting open positions, looking to hire and continuing program development.

“One of the great opportunities from this incredible grant is that we are able to then provide increased compensation for our staff to hopefully really (encourage) some of our staff to participate and teach and lead these programs after two very stressful and strenuous years,” Anderson said. “So we’re hoping we’ll have a well-rounded and robust program and staff that are really excited to work with our students.”

Anderson said another critical piece will be communicating with students and families so they know what opportunities are available and how to register for them.

Anderson said they are hoping to offer summing programming registration in conjunction with registration for Targeted Services, which begins in May.

Director of Finance and Operations Chris Kampa explained in total the district received $555,000 in grant funds to offer the expanded summer programming opportunities. He explained the funds need to be spent by August and it was a competitive grant process.

“That’s over $500,000 of free money from the state that the district did not have to match,” Board Member Carri Levitski said. “Thank you all for your hard work going after that, because this benefits so many of our students and families and it’s very appreciated.”

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