School Committee Supports Expansion of Haverhill YMCA Summer Reading Program

(File photograph.)

Haverhill’s School Committee members may have squabbled over appointing a Vice Chairman last week, but one thing the panel did agree on was the importance of extended learning time.

At Thursday’s meeting, the Committee praised the efforts of the Haverhill YMCA for its summer literacy program, executed under the direction of Northeast YMCA Regional Director Tracy Fuller and Pentucket Lake Principal Dianne Connolly.

Piloted to students at Pentucket Lake with those at Tilton opting in in recent years, the enrichment program attempts to close the achievement gap and have all students reading at grade level by grade 3, Fuller said.

Twenty to 30 students typically take part in the summer session, which balances reading readiness with the Y’s traditional camp activities. According to Fuller, those elementary students identified by their teachers as in need may participate in the program at no cost, so long as they attend 80 percent of the sessions and have their parents attend status meetings. Lunch and transportation are provided in an effort to eliminate any barriers to participation.

The program is staffed by Haverhill Public Schools faculty, many of whom maintain contact with students from the summer into the fall school year. The Y estimates a cost of $1,000 per child per year.

At Thursday’s meeting, Fuller urged the School Committee to consider adding a line item in their annual budget to accommodate fees not absorbed by Y donors and partners.

Newly-elected Vice Chairman Paul A. Magliocchetti seemed amenable to Fuller’s request.

“We have so many students who could use a program like this and anything we can do as a community to help you, we should try to do,” he said. “Especially if it doesn’t end up costing our local taxpayers.”

Mayor James J. Fiorentini, a longtime advocate for extended learning time, agreed and pledged his full support.

“Extended learning time means that the poor children will not fall behind in the summer. It’s not just about having more play time after school; it’s about having substantive programs like those you offer,” Fiorentini said. “It’s something that we have to stress and do better at.”