For the second year, Eau Claire school district families can enroll their kids in summer school programs for free.

That, coupled with community partnerships that allow the district to offer summer programs such as a Hmong language course, is what school officials say earned them a District of Distinction award from District Administration Magazine.

“We want these opportunities available to all of our students,” said Mary Ann Hardebeck, superintendent of schools. “Having access to these opportunities shouldn’treally be based on income or parents’ ability to pay.”

Hardebeck said superintendents and administrative offices typically read the magazine, which they use to gather ideas for their own schools. 

Awards are given out based on adistrict’s work toremove barriers for students, she said, which can apply to different categories of education such as wellness and career readiness.

District Administration Magazine awarded the distinction to 45 districts in the U.S. this year, according to the publication’s website. 

Three of those districts are in Wisconsin: Eau Claire, Fond du Lac and Turtle Lake.

“We feel pretty good,” said Jim Schmitt, executive director of teaching and learning. “That’s less than one per state, and Wisconsin was pretty well represented.”

Eau Claire’s summer school offerings range from math and science to language and the arts. 

Schmitt pointed out that some programs come with material fees, but Hardebeck said the district works with families who can’t afford those fees to make sure they get what they need.

Schmitt said the Eau Claire school district has received calls from other districts in the past inquiring about its summer school programming.

“We hope other districts take advantage of the opportunity to help their students be engaged and active learners throughout the school year, including summer,” he said.

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