Fantastic Fridays Helping Students Make Up for Time Lost to Pandemic

By Josh Beavers

Covid changed the lives of adults across the globe, but what about the impact the pandemic had on our children? Not only did young people miss out on educational opportunities in the classroom, but they lost music, art, P.E. and the social connection with classmates and educators. That is why the Webster Parish School System has launched Fantastic Fridays this summer in an effort to help children make up for some of that lost time.

“Activities focused on three areas: enrichment, team building, and life skills,” said Oreata Banks, who serves as Elementary and Pre-K supervisor for the parish. “Some of the specific activities include art, music, P.E., dance, cheer, and robotics.”

Banks said these activities are offered throughout the district for grades PK-8. Sites for Fantastic Fridays are Browning Elementary and North Webster High School in the north end of the district, Phillips Elementary and Webster Junior High School in the Minden area, and Lakeside Junior/Senior High School in the south end of the district. Breakfast and lunch is provided at each site as well as transportation.

Community partners such as Cultural Crossroads, B1Bank, Carter Federal Credit Union, and Miles for Smiles have agreed to contribute their time to the program. More than 550 students registered to participate.

“The excitement of the program can be seen not only by the students but administrators and instructors,” Banks said. “After the first Fantastic Friday on June 11th, school and district phone lines lit up with parents who did not sign up. Now they want to register their children for the program.”

Evelyn Lasseigne has a family member in attendance, and she had this to say about the effort on the district’s Facebook page: “Thank you for putting this event on. My granddaughter is loving it.”

Michelle Finley, who serves as Richardson Elementary principal, is assisting with the events and said Fantastic Fridays are important because of the variety of enrichment activities.

“Students rotate three times during the half day of activities,” she told us. “District office staff, principals, assistants, teachers, and some student workers on site make sure the day runs smoothly. The first Fantastic Friday was a huge success!”

Banks said it is the district’s hope that the Fantastic Friday program is the beginning of students being exposed to more enrichment programs not only during summer months but throughout the year.

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