School’s (not) out!

Published 10:44 pm Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Remedial reading teacher Heather Howell and her remedial reading summer school students use their fingers to “tap” out the sounds in words written on the board to ensure they are spelled correctly. The students are rising sixth-graders who are attending the summer school course to enhance their reading skills before they start middle school in September.

Summer for Maya Gibbs isn’t going to be the two and a half months filled with visits to the pool and hours of watching TV that it is for most kids her age.

Instead, the rising sixth-grader is spending a good portion of her vacation in a classroom at King’s Fork Middle School brushing up on reading and spelling.

But Gibbs isn’t alone; she is one of about 400 students enrolled in the summer school program in Suffolk this summer.

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Summer school programs offer students the chance to earn promotion to the next grade by retaking core subjects they failed during the year and it gives them the opportunity to receive remediation in the subjects where they struggle.

Gibbs is enrolled in a remedial reading course, and she said she is enjoying her summer even though she isn’t soaking up much sun.

Summer school, she explained, is helping her prepare for her first year of middle school.

“It’s good, because I’m learning the way you learn in sixth grade,” she said.

In addition to the middle school summer program, there are also programs for high and elementary school students.

King’s Fork hosts the middle school program, Lakeland is home to the high school program and the elementary programs take place at Kilby Shores and Mack Benn Jr. elementary schools.

Students report to class Monday through Thursday for about four hours each day.

John Yeates assistant principal Shawn Green said he thinks once students hear the schedule, summer school doesn’t seem like such a burden.

“I think the schedule is a help for students who think it’s a drag,” he said. “They figure they can handle half a day, Monday through Thursday.”

Additionally, Green said, the teachers who sign up to teach summer school work to include fun activities to engage the students.

“I feel like the teachers do a good job at keeping it upbeat,” he said.

Heather Howell, who teaches the remedial reading class Gibbs is taking, said keeping the kids’ attention is especially important in summer school.

Howell uses games like charades and Go Fish to make the lessons more fun and to help the students absorb the material.

This is the first year Howell has taught summer school, and it’s also the first time a remedial reading program for rising sixth graders has been offered.

The summer program should be a great opportunity for participants to get used to the middle-school setting, she said.

Danielle Eaton, another of Howell’s students, said she thinks summer school is going to make her a better student next year.

Howell said summer school makes a big difference in the education of students who need extra help because gaps in instruction can cause regression.

“For kids who have trouble, at the beginning of the school year, they are working double time,” she said.

The elementary and middle summer school students will finish their programs July 28 and will have about a month before they are back in school.

The high schoolers will be close behind, with their summer school ending the first week of August.