Project launch extends school year for SVVSD students – Longmont Times-Call
Fourteen first graders recently sat on a mat in their classroom at Northridge Elementary School in Longmont as teacher Michelle Flippin walked them through the pronunciation of a series of nonsense words.
“You collect everything you’ve learned,” she said before they read aloud words that included “tipindexes”, “blosses” and “drinches”. “These are super weird words but, if you know all the sounds, can you read them? Of course you can.”
The students, most of whom were in her class during the school year, are getting an extra four weeks of school thanks to the St. Vrain Valley School District’s “project launch.”
“The end of first grade is when they really start to read and understand,” Flippin said. “You can maintain this flow.”
The project launch is operational at 16 school sites this month, extending the school year by four weeks for around 3,000 primary school students and around 900 middle school students. About a quarter of the district’s elementary students are enrolled in the program.
“The idea of school ending at the end of May just isn’t what it is anymore,” Superintendent Don Haddad said.
Saint-Vrain piloted the launch of the project in 2019, then skipped a year in 2020 due to the pandemic. While the summer program was originally limited to students who were below grade level in literacy, it was opened to all students last summer and this summer in recognition of the learning gaps caused by the pandemic disruptions at school.
“It’s an investment our district is making,” said Diane Lauer, assistant superintendent of priority programs.
Students attend a full school day, four days a week. There is no charge for families, and breakfast, lunch, and transportation are provided.
The launch of the project is being funded by three main sources: federal coronavirus relief money, money from Colorado’s READ Act, and a two-year, $2.8 million state grant that St. Vrain Valley received along with four other school districts through the state’s RISE — Response, Innovation and Student Actions — Fund.
The district received a two-year, $2.8 million state grant to work with five smaller districts across the state on its K-5 summer literacy program. The award is part of the second round of grants from Colorado’s Response, Innovation and Student Equity Fund, which is funded by federal coronavirus relief money.
Other grants, from Mile High United Way and The Weld Trust, cover the cost of a preschool program that started last summer. Four school sites, with students from seven schools, provide a full-day option for preschoolers entering kindergarten in the fall.
One school, Erie’s Highlands Elementary, is piloting a modified version of the summer program for students with dyslexic characteristics from Highlands and four other Erie elementary schools. And for new sixth-graders, there is an accelerated math option.
The project’s kick-off program focuses on math and literacy, with teachers incorporating science and social studies concepts into their lessons that students will learn in the fall. With a full day program, students also have a daily choice.
To prepare for the program, the district used a short assessment in May to assess students’ reading and math levels. These data, along with the curriculum and materials, were provided to the teachers, who had four days to plan the teaching. Each school site has a literacy teacher and a special education teacher to support classroom teachers.
The Boulder Valley School District also offers a literacy and math-focused summer program at no cost to families, with free meals and transportation. The six-week summer program, which started on Monday, runs over half-days, four days a week. Approximately 1,300 new K-9 students are enrolled at 11 school sites.
The program includes small group reading and math lessons, online independent exercises, STEM activities, and social and emotional skills lessons. Students below grade level in math or literacy were invited to attend.
New this summer, through a partnership with Impact on Education, is a program for approximately 160 rising kindergarten students held at three locations: two in Boulder and one in Lafayette.
“We are thrilled that so many students in our community are more ready for kindergarten than they would have been without this opportunity,” said Boulder Valley Assistant Superintendent Robbyn Fernandez.
In the St. Vrain Valley, Northridge Elementary School in Longmont is one of the sites for burgeoning kindergarten students. Recently, a teacher helped two students write letters, while the others colored planets or built a rainbow out of blocks with the help of two paraeducators.
“They can have that extra prep for kindergarten,” principal DeAnn Dykes said. “We do a lot of work on social-emotional learning, on how to follow the group, get along and solve problems.”
She said the small class sizes of the summer program, with additional support from the literacy teacher, special education teacher and paraeducators, allows teachers to really target areas where students need more. help. All but two of the teachers in the summer program are also from Northridge, so most students start by familiarizing themselves with the teachers. A counselor works with small groups and, for the preschool class, teaches the whole class.
At Northridge, about 75% of students speak English as a second language, while about the same percentage qualify for federally subsidized lunches. This summer, 142 students—about 45% of the school’s total enrollment—are participating in Project Launch.
“They start the school year all the more confident,” Dykes said.
Recently, Flippin, the first grade teacher, worked with three students in a small group who started the school year with her as “newcomers”, speaking only Spanish.
She asked them to find individual words in a reading passage about pets – pointing to ‘dog’, ‘fish’, ‘small’, ‘cat’ and ‘crab’ – before reading the story together. She also asked them to tell her the Spanish word for crab and asked if they had ever had a crab as a pet.
“It’s really cool to see how far they’ve come,” she said of her students. “For our newcomers in particular, they are so exposed to the language when they are here.”
Especially after the disruptions of the pandemic, she said, students are also enjoying more time with school routines and expectations.
“These kids didn’t have a lot of in-person time in kindergarten,” she said. “They lack some entry-level skills. Those extra four weeks are really helpful.
In Erie, the Highlands Elementary program also includes students from Red Hawk for a total enrollment of 125 students. Most teachers come from these two schools, which gives most students “a face they recognize”.
Sixteen-year-old Elise Volpi teaches new Project Launch freshmen who might find themselves in her freshman class at Highlands in the fall, giving her a head start in getting to know her students.
“I can see their confidence growing,” she said. “They become more confident readers. I want them as close to the reading reference level as possible. »
As in Northridge, paraeducators, a literacy teacher and a special education teacher work with small groups of students, reducing overall class sizes during literacy instruction. There are also recreations, movement breaks, themed Thursdays and a more relaxed atmosphere than during the school year.
In a first-grade class, 18 students practiced a math counting strategy, counting from the first number in math addition equations using pictures. Then they played a game of dice to write their own equations.
“Remember, math is not a race,” teacher Nicole Neitenbach warned as the students worked. “If we go too fast, we risk doing something stupid.”
Neitenbach, who taught first grade at Red Hawk for four years and will move into third grade in the fall, said she is focused on improving students’ mastery of math facts.
“If they’re very good at the math facts, the harder math problems aren’t as difficult,” she said. “It really reinforces the skills they learned over the school year.”
For the Dyslexia Base Camp pilot project, 22 students spend the morning together for small group instruction in literacy and community development activities. They also work with two high school mentors, who can share their own experiences with dyslexia. In the afternoon, they take part in regular project launch classes.
“We want to help kids get ready for the next school year,” said Laura Fitzgerald, Highlands Elementary site coordinator.