DESOTO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – A new program in DeSoto ISD and Cedar Hill ISD is getting students excited about learning, even during the summer break.

It is a program called “Heal, Play, Learn,” developed by the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, in partnership with the school districts.

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After a year filled with pandemic-related learning disruptions, Susan Hoff with the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas said the program hopes to help kids fall back in love with school and learning.

The Texas Education Agency estimates that, due to distanced learning, students lost nearly six months of instructional learning and more than 150,000 students went completely missing from school.

“Our focus is getting kids reengaged in school, so they are ready to start this fall ready to roll and excited about learning, which is so critically important,” Hoff said.

The programs feature STEM, arts, music, sports, and wellness classes. All working together to improve student’s social emotional wellness, physical health, and engagement with arts and sciences.

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A strategy that teachers like Shannon Hill from DeSoto ISD said is a winning combination for students.

“You’re exposed to more and you are able to actually move, interact, learn more with peers around you,” Hill said. “You have something tangible to touch, which can spark your learning and your interest and that is the main thing we want to do.”

In DeSoto ISD, the program is part of the district’s summer school curriculum.

In Cedar Hill ISD, the program is open to all district students and families. The “Heal, Play, Learn,” classes will be held on Wednesday evenings in starting June 16 and continuing through July.

“This is a model that we hope other districts, not just around North Texas, but the state and nation will adopt as well,” Hoff said.

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All made possible by a nearly $900,000 grant from Texas Instruments Foundation in partnership with Educate Texas.

Madison Sawyer