Wednesday, June 19, 2013
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Third-grade teacher Krysia Bliss leads her class through a reading exercise Aug. 8 during a summer school session at Independence Elementary School.
August 14, 2012
INDEPENDENCE -- Angel Ibarra was visibly anxious when his mom dropped him and his fraternal twin, Oscar, off at Independence Elementary School on Aug. 8.
They were introduced during breakfast to their teacher, Krysia Bliss. Oscar let her know immediately about his brother's jitters -- it was their first day of summer school.
Bliss flashed Angel a reassuring smile, led the two and another 13 kids to her class on the second floor, and dove right into "the morning message" -- a fill-in-the-letters word game.
Oscar had his hand up the entire time. Slowly but surely, Angel found the courage to raise his hand to attempt an answer. A good sign.
"I want them to know school's a safe place," Bliss said earlier while prepping the day's lessons. "I want them to feel confident about their abilities."
About 100 students from Monmouth and Independence have hit the books early as part of Central School District's summer school program, which runs through Aug. 23. It's designed to aid students who might be behind academically or could simply benefit from getting back into the school routine.
"Waking up is tough for them," said Tina Mabry, Angel and Oscar's mom. "I'm hoping this will get them both totally on track for next month."
Summer School concentrates mostly on literacy exercises and reading, about 2.5 hours four days a week. Teachers, meanwhile, inventory their skills at the start of the program and measure it against the end results.
"There's growth," said Bliss, who teaches third grade. "When I did this last year, they gained anywhere from a quarter to half a grade level over the session."
Some students just need the extra practice reading -- as you would expect, skills get rusty over the summer, said Principal Steve Tillery.
A high percentage of summer school participants are English Language Learners.
"This is providing an extra boost because most have been speaking only Spanish during the summer and this gets them back into an English environment," Tillery said.
The district has had to scale down summer school in recent years because of cuts to Title I funding. The number of days are about the same, but the hours in the classroom aren't.
"In the past, they did more science-related things, had activities that tied into art and had field trips," Tillery said.
There are also fewer assistants to help in the classroom, though the ratio of children to adults is still 15 to 1, considerably lower than during the normal school year.
Summer school's a boost for teachers, as well. Bliss said it helps her transition back to the regular school calendar.
And "families who bring their students here are really appreciative," Bliss said. "The kids really work hard, not that they don't during the regular year, but they really seem to want to be here."
Acxel Urrutia of Independence said he was nervous about starting fifth grade in September -- "we'll have to do science."
Urrutia said while it's always fun spending the whole day gaming on his Playstation 3, it was fun seeing his school friends and reading more during the summer.
"I'll be more happy when school starts," he said.