Summer adventures to return

The school district agreed to spend $45,000 a year for the next three years to bring back the SAFE BASE summer program. The district had not offered such a program for the past four years. Historically, they are quite popular, especially for low-income families.

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February 24, 2021 - 9:50 AM

SAFE BASE students are shown during a special field trip to Colorado in 2013. The summer program will return this year, though field trips are likely to be a bit more regional. Register file photo

The SAFE BASE summer program will return in June, after a four-year absence.

USD 257 board members agreed Monday to spend $45,000 a year for the next three years to bring back the summer activities.

The summer program will be free to students from kindergarten through eighth grade and will run four weeks in June, with half-day educational programs Monday through Wednesday and a field trip on Thursdays.

SAFE BASE director Angela Henry addresses the school board Monday. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Director Angela Henry anticipates about 135 students would participate.

The news comes as SAFE BASE, which has operated an after-school program throughout the school year for more than 20 years, is applying for a highly competitive grant to continue its efforts. 

The program is funded primarily by two grants. One expires this year; the other, next year. State officials expect more than 80 applications, but will fund only about a dozen.

By seeking the board’s approval now, it could give SAFE BASE a competitive edge in the grant process, Henry said.

Somewhat ironically, an official at the Kansas Department of Education recently sent Henry an email asking for a presentation on SAFE BASE’s summer program. It was one of two programs across the state they wanted to use as a model, because of its success.

The district has not offered a summer program the past four years because of a lack of grant funding. 

Also on Monday, Henry asked the City of Iola to continue its partnership with SAFE BASE, and the council agreed to provide $5,000 each year for the next five years.

SAFE BASE students traveled to Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas in 2014, and also toured the King Tut exhibit at Kansas City’s Union Station. Register file photo

SUMMER programs historically have been quite popular, Henry said, though they’ve always depended on funding.

Most years, students would take field trips across the state and region. They’ve gone to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, or the Discovery Place in Wichita. They rode a train from Baldwin City to Ottawa. They camped with animals at the Sedgwick County zoo.

They’ve also traveled to Missouri to visit places like Hannibal and Branson.

But the highlight was in 2013, when students took a trip to Colorado. That adventure was made possible by a $100,000 grant. 

Most years, the adventures were a bit more local. They might include educational activities like how to set a table.

Still, Henry said, they give students an opportunity for adventures they may otherwise never have.

About 75% of the students who participate in SAFE BASE qualify for free- and reduced-price meals. That is an indicator of poverty, and is frequently used to determine funding.

USD 257’s average rate of free- and reduced-price lunches is around 59%.

A survey of current SAFE BASE families found a large majority wanted the summer program to return. 

Students do not have to attend all four weeks. 

Meals and transportation are included.

The board actually gave Henry more money than she asked for. She requested $41,000 per year, but Superintendent Stacey Fager said there are many unknowns going into the summer because of coronavirus restrictions, and he suggested the board increase the amount to $45,000. They agreed.

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