The Lodi Unified School District Bridge Program, the after-school service that provides academic support as well as enrichment and physical recreation activities, is currently offered on 27 elementary campuses.
But next year, the district hopes to embark on a mission that will expand the program to all 37 of its elementary school sites.
The district school board on Tuesday evening voiced support for the expansion of the program, which Education Support Services program coordinator Jose Maciel said will be funded by state and federal grants implemented the last summer as part of AB 130, the Expanded Learning Opportunities Bill.
The bill, according to Maciel’s report, aims to create expanded learning programs that complement, not duplicate, the learning activities of the regular school day.
The expansion of the Bridge program is to provide a minimum of nine hours of programming per day for 180 school days and 30 non-teaching days.
That nine hours includes in-person instructional time, with the three-hour after-school program at the end of the day, Maciel said.
“During the 180 school days, students will attend school approximately six hours a day, and then we will have to offer expanding learning programs for the remaining three to combine no less than nine hours in total,” a- he declared.
“At the moment, we currently offer 10 hours of programming when you include what we offer in the Bridge program and the regular school day combined. We will certainly meet the needs of this funding because we are currently providing services in the district.
The goal is to increase program capacity by 50%, Maciel said, noting that the increase in attendance is unlikely to be widespread, as some schools may see a larger increase than other sites due to specific needs.
“It’s a very ambitious goal, but it’s something we’re preparing with a plan,” he said. “And we are preparing to execute our plan in phases. I know there is a staff shortage that is very apparent and undeniable, and it is something that I am prepared to manage on a day-to-day and phased basis.
The plan, Maciel said, is to augment some staff currently under contract to work six to eight hours. Those staff will mainly be TK teachers, who will now work until 6 p.m. each day, he said.
As the program grows by 50%, Maciel said funding will also increase each year, but is subject to change based on the governor’s proposed budget.
Current sources of funding include $4.6 million in one-time AB 86 Expanded Learning Opportunity grants and $1.75 million from the Expanded Learning Opportunities program.
The latter, according to Maciel’s report, will eventually reach $5 million.
Maciel said the district needs 288 employees, including teachers, administrators, paraeducators and community partners, to expand the program.
He said the district currently has about 70% of that to go forward, adding that the plan is to try to recruit and attract teachers to meet that 100% goal.
The program is expected to serve 6,000 students during the regular school year and 4,000 during the summer session, he said.
“It sounds like a great plan and a great program,” said board member Gary Knackstedt. “My only concern is that in real life we don’t have enough people…it’s not just at Lodi Unified, it’s a national trend. As long as you have a way to massage that, that’s great.
Council member Ron Freitas agreed that adding an expanded after-school program would benefit English language learners in the district, as well as those reading below grade level.
“Over 30% of our district are English learners and we need to take this very seriously and make the necessary changes,” he said. “As we heard earlier in the meeting, get kids reading in grade three and keep them on that positive path. And this board has been totally committed to that, and we’ve seen our graduation rates go up because of it, our dropout rates and our truancy rates go down. This program will only be designed to help these three categories and university students.
The board took no action on Tuesday night as Maciel will provide program updates at an upcoming meeting.