The College Park City Council discussed adding a free online tutoring program for all College Park students during Tuesday’s worksession. 

Imagine Learning, an online educational service, proposed a reading program for K-12 grade levels and a math program for third graders and above. The program will not be connected directly to schools, so it will be a voluntary service for students who want to use the resource. 

The program would cost the city approximately $30,000, according to city staff. The program itself is estimated to cost $20,800 and the city would have to provide about 10 to 15 hours of staff time per week to monitor the program. 

The city asked the commission to look into online tutoring programs and allocated $30,000 to these programs as a part of the 2023 city budget. Imagine Learning previously met with the city’s education advisory commission on Aug. 15.

Imagine Learning’s programs start with an assessment to determine what skills each student needs to work on and place students in an appropriate level for the online program. The site will then set up tailored lessons for the student to bring them up to their actual grade level or further their learning. 

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The Imagine Math program includes on-demand live tutors students can talk directly to or chat with if they need support

District 4 council member Maria Mackie liked the emphasis on getting students caught up on educational fundamentals. Mackie, who once worked as a tutor, said she noticed students would struggle in high school math classes because they never fully learned elementary school math.

“I’m very much of an advocate of really getting our children on grade level,” Mackie said. 

Representatives for Imagine Learning explained to the council that their program teaches students in a way that is suited for their age group. For example, if an older student needs to learn a skill from a lower grade level, the materials, such as videos and information, will present content that is appropriate for the older age group.

District 3 council member John Rigg asked the commission about the choice of Imagine Learning over traditional tutoring options.

Kiaisha Barber, the director of youth, family and senior services for the city, collaborated with the advisory commission on finding this service. She said the commission agreed this would improve students overall, not just for one-time help. 

“It was the committee’s thought that this was the best way to get some foundation for College Park students’ ongoing education success,” Barber said.

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Multiple council members were concerned about getting students to sign up for this program. District 3 council member Stuart Adams proposed offering students incentives for completing levels of the program. 

Mackie said it wouldn’t be easy to push people to sign up for the service. But it’s the parents’ responsibility to be engaged and sign kids up for this program. 

“We can say to parents, ‘The city is coming to help you, but you will have to be engaged,’” Mackie said