Making the Most of Your Summer Fun(ds)—A Countdown Checklist

May 21, 2024

This is a guest post from AASA 2023-24 president, Gladys Cruz.

NOTE: This month’s blog post includes not only our usual just-in-time advice for delivering a high-quality summer program, but also some additional suggestions related to any remaining federal ESSER funds your district may still be deciding how to spend. That ESSER advice appears at the very end of this month’s post.

It’s an exciting time–your summer programs are launching soon! In a matter of weeks, all of the hard work and preparation your staff have put into planning will be realized in smiling faces, fun field trips, and active learning. You’ve made all of the big decisions, hired a great team, and planned for engaging academics and enrichment. Now, in these final few weeks before the summer, it’s time to focus on the details that will make the difference between an okay day and a great day. Consider the following to-dos as you prepare to kick off a great summer, and check out a comprehensive operations checklist linked at the end of this post.

1. Confirm plans with transportation, nutrition, and custodial departments

Nothing can throw a summer program off course like hiccups in transportation, meals, and site preparation. Confirm transportation schedules and routes with transportation leads for both daily transit and field trips. If the program will not be providing transportation, communicate with families the timing and procedures for arrivals and dismissals. 

Similarly, ensure that the nutrition department is aware of the summer campus meal schedule, needs for snacks or bagged lunches for field trips, and any reported food allergies. Finally, confirm the site usage plan with the custodial or facilities team, and communicate expectations for which spaces will be cleaned and re-stocked throughout the summer. 

2. Gather permission slips and consent forms

Gather field trip permission slips and any other consents like photo and video releases from families before the program begins. Notify teachers and campus leaders of any students who do not have permission to be photographed. 

3. Distribute curriculum and supplies 

Prior to pre-summer professional development, distribute all curricular materials and supplies to both academic and enrichment instructors. Help teachers access and practice using any online curricular resources prior to the start of the program. Note: If you’re still in the process of putting together your professional development, check out our prior blog post here and resources from the Wallace Foundation here. 

4. Use data to group students and plan instructional differentiation

Once student rosters are developed, provide paid planning time for teachers to review their students’ data from the school year to help inform their instructional groupings and strategies. Provide any new or outside hires with appropriate access to their students’ data. 

5. Confirm continuous improvement plan and schedule

Share with teachers any observation protocols that will be used to complete program walkthroughs or classroom observations during the summer. Ensure they also know when they will be observed, by whom, and when and how the feedback will be discussed. 

Depending on your evaluation plan, you may be conducting pre-assessments at the beginning of the summer and post-assessments at the end. Schedule those assessments and assign responsibility for timely analysis and reporting of results.

By focusing extra attention on the details now, 
your program will start strong and stay strong all summer long!


The Preparing for Day 1 / Week 1 of Summer Programming checklist from the Sperling Center for Research and Innovation includes a comprehensive list of tasks essential to a great summer. Incorporate this tool into your final planning team meetings to ensure that all items are covered. 

This blog is part of a Summer Program Planning series that draws from evidence-based practices culled from RAND research commissioned by The Wallace Foundation. Each suggestion is accompanied by concrete resources from the online Summer Learning Toolkit to provide just-in-time support throughout the school year for your district’s summer learning team. (Check out the May 2023, June, July, August, October, November, December, January, February, March, and April blog posts for more summer advice.)

For more, share Eight Key Summer Learning Practices for Elementary School Districts with your summer leadership team.

ESSER Advice for the Summer

Remember, summer programs are a great use of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds! With a September 30 deadline to obligate any remaining ESSER funds, keep these three possibilities in mind:

  • Level Up Summer 2024: Consider boosting your summer program in ways that won’t create sustainability issues for future years. This might include adding extra staff, opening more seats for students, running special learning and engagement field trips, or purchasing additional technology to support your program.

  • Help Prevent “Summer Melt”: Every year, an estimated 10-40% of high school seniors intending to go to college don’t arrive on campus the following fall. There’s an increased risk of this “summer melt” for this year’s seniors because of the current FAFSA challenges. School districts can use ESSER funds to support a likely larger-than-usual cohort this summer. This new resource from AASA and the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) includes strategies and resources your district can use to bridge students to college—including by leveraging your high school summer sites and staff.

  • Invest in Summer 2025: While the obligation deadline for ESSER funds remains the end of September, the U.S. Department of Education has created a late liquidation option that can extend the timeline for spending down the obligated funds. This means districts could potentially liquidate some ESSER funds for summer 2025 (and all the way through the end of March 2026). So if your district has remaining ESSER funds and if your SEA will apply for late liquidation, you could also consider using some remaining ESSER funds to contract for summer 2025 services. Perhaps consider contracting again with a longtime, high-quality summer partner or extending a successful school-year tutoring program so you could offer high-dosage tutoring as part of your summer 2025 program.