Detroit’s recreation centers are the cornerstones of its community, providing children with access to resources such as sports programs and media centers during the summer. They are especially important in keeping kids off the streets in the summer, when they don’t have school to fill their days. Unfortunately, since 2006, severe budget cuts have forced the city of Detroit to close over half its 27 recreation centers, leaving the children of working parents and caregivers with few places to engage with meaningful activities during the summer.
To solve this program, Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) has stepped in, transforming sixteen of their schools into recreation centers as part of a five-week program. Schools can be converted into recreation centers at a fraction of the cost that it would take to restore—and in some cases rebuild—the closed recreation centers, making this a viable solution. These “Summer Fun Centers,” as they are called, are open to children during the day as a place to play sports, make art, and more. For this summer, the city has hired nearly 200 “Play Leaders” and staff members to facilitate recreation programs. After this initial pilot program, DPS Superintendent Nikolai Vitti stated that the city and school district may use a similar strategy long-term to respond to recreation center closures.
With this unique approach, DPS has been able to quickly and inexpensively deliver a host of recreational activities to children who might otherwise be on the streets. This program will certainly be worth keeping an eye on as summer progresses, and it may turn out that other cities will follow Detroit’s example.
DPSCD’s Summer Fun Centers are a great example of how innovative responses to budget cuts can advance student achievement. Education Funding Partners is proud to be able to help districts relieve funding shortfalls by partnering them with national brands to provide sustainable revenue streams through digital advertising programs.