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Next Level Learning Offers Enrichment and Joy

Summertime at the Omaha Public Schools provides a valuable opportunity for students to continue learning. Aside from core subjects, students participating in Next Level Learning are doing everything from flying drones to performing in musicals.

“Reading and math – we are definitely going to focus on that,” said Elijah Simmons, Fontenelle Elementary’s Next Level Learning principal. “But our project-based learning, our enrichment in the afternoon, our student experiences are some things that will make Next Level Learning amazing.”

This year, more than 13,500 students will benefit from Next Level Learning. Our summer programming takes place in June and July at 34 sites districtwide.

“It’s like running a small school district for two or three months of the year,” said Susanne Cramer, Omaha Public Schools executive director of academic recovery.

Cramer played a significant role in organizing this year’s Next Level Learning. Our district took steps early to allocate Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding for enhancements to the programming aligned with differentiated student needs and a high-quality curriculum.

“We are thinking about ways to have these [educational] experiences be hyper-engaging and immersive for students,” said Cramer.

Next Level Learning sessions offer a camp-like experience with themes of science, nature, sports and art. The summer programming is designed to address academic recovery and improve student outcomes. It’s also about enrichment and joy for students.

“[Students] are so inquisitive. They’re so curious. They just have bright eyes, and they want to know everything,” said Lillian Nero, a Next Level Learning student intern who recently graduated from North High.

Nero is part of the Omaha Public Schools paid student internship program, one of several opportunities developed in recent years to help build a pipeline of future educators.

“I’ve had so many teachers that have impacted my life in ways that I really can’t explain,” Nero shared, saying she enjoys the chance to work with students one-on-one and see how education affects each differently.

“They need more teachers and more people who are willing to help, and I’m down to help,” she said.

Student interns, like Nero, assist with literacy. They received training in specific reading interventions and will also tutor elementary school students.

“We recommend that all children are engaged all summer in something,” said Omaha Public Schools Superintendent Cheryl Logan, Ed.D. “Learning loss in the summer is significant. It is more significant for students who struggled during the academic year.”

Those leading the work to provide this opportunity for students are encouraged by the level of interest from families and our district looks forward to enhancing programming further in the future.