This spring, hundreds of students in Transformation Waco schools will be invited to spend spring break at school, and dozens of teachers will get a chance to earn an extra $3,000.

Waco Independent School District’s new in-district charter school system is planning a “Spring Break Academy” to help students hone their English language arts skills as part of a plan to turn five struggling schools around.

The program, a creation of the system’s consultant Empower Schools, is intended to be a treat for the students, Transformation Waco CEO Robin McDurham said.

“(It’s) not like summer school at all,” McDurham said. “Our plan is to keep things pretty engaging and to make sure that enrichment time is targeted with some really fun activities to give it a different feel.”

The idea is to select the best teachers in the region to give certain Transformation Waco students an extra push they need in language arts, she said. The students will chosen by standardized test performance and will meet in a smaller class setting, with one teacher per 10 students.

About 90 students at each campus will be invited to attend the academies, for a total of about 450 students grades third through seventh.

McDurham said she hopes teachers will be excited about the opportunity to share ideas with other high-performing teachers.

“I think that it’s telling that, in the states that have modeled it, many of the teachers return year after year to do it because it is a good way to refresh but still work over spring break,” she said.

If the program is a success, McDurham said she could see Transformation Waco hosting the academies again next year.

“It’s one of those things where iron sharpens iron,” she said. “We’re really hoping that they (teachers) get so many great and new ideas from each other while they’re there.”

If successful, the program may be replicated in Waco Independent School District schools, spokesman Kyle DeBeer said.

“There’s a lot of excitement around the spring break academies,” DeBeer said. “I think that part of that is that it speaks to the vision of the Transformation Zone and the partnership with Transformation Waco. It is about piloting new ideas to teaching and learning and improving student outcomes with an eye towards learning from those pilot projects and taking the best practices and spreading them to the rest of the district.”

A typical day at a Spring Break Academy will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. and will include breakfast and lunch.

The program is estimated to cost about $325,000 for all five campuses. The district’s implementation grant from the Texas Education Agency will cover all of Transformation Waco’s schools except Brook Avenue Elementary, which will likely be covered by a different grant.

Teachers may apply by contacting John Jenkins, Transformation Waco program director. Applications will be accepted between Dec. 12 and Feb. 13.

“Anyone is welcome to apply,” she said.

Lauren Dodd has covered education for the Tribune-Herald since May 2018. A native of Beaumont, Dodd attended Rhodes College and joined the Tribune-Herald in 2018. She previously worked as a reporter at the Seguin Gazette and the Killeen Daily Herald.

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