School’s out for the summer — again

Moffat County students, teachers find value in four-week summer program

Christina M. Currie

Youths weren’t the only ones who learned something in summer school. The four-week session was as much for teacher development as it was for students.

“We’re learning new ways to teach, so when the real game is on, we can do a better job,” Sunset Elementary School teacher Bill Ronis said.

There were several summer school options available to youths this year. One option was for students with skills charted at or above their grade level. The other followed the traditional summer school concept and was for those needing to catch up.

The majority of the nearly 125 students enrolled did so voluntarily.

Teachers used parent-teacher conferences to recruit students to practice their new skills on. Nearly 100 parents agreed to pay the $10 fee for the session. That fee was refunded to any student with perfect attendance.

“It gives kids something to do besides sitting in front of television in the mornings,” Ronis said.

Three 1 1/2-hour sessions each of math and literacy were taught. Each session was comprised of two grade levels. Third and fourth, fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth grades were combined. Two teachers were in charge of leading the sessions for their grade level. When it was time for the next session — therefore next grade level — the teachers of the first session became the “aides” for the next.

What the rotation meant was that each math class had six teachers and each literacy class had six teachers.

“Kids can make some really great gains in these four weeks just because of the almost individual attention they get,” Craig Intermediate School teacher Mary Blakeman said.

Nearly 50 students signed up for the math program and about 45 signed up for the literacy classes. Some students signed up for both.

The classes are funded through a professional development grant.

“We wanted primarily students who were at or above grade level because we wanted to simulate a typical classroom as much as possible,” district math coordinator Cassia McDiffet said.

Ronis said he’s learned how to marry two math programs so he can better use the tools the district bought.

“We’re all learning here,” said Linda Davis, East Elementary School fourth-grade teacher.

Blakeman said her goal was to learn how to do literacy circles.

“It’s a hoot,” she said about the program. “It’s really a lot of fun. I wish the regular school year was this much fun.”

Teachers weren’t alone in seeing the value. The students enjoyed the lessons, too.

“I like it,” 7-year-old Taylor Brown said. “I like the math because you get to make cool stuff.”

The soon-to-be second-grader’s favorite were the rockets they built and launched Thursday — the last day of classes.

“They’re fun, and they go far,” she said.

She also enjoyed learning to graph and write story problems by making M&M cookies.

Lest it sound like all play, Blakeman said, “they’ve worked their little brains out.”

Students in the literacy program read novels, wrote poems and put on plays.

Secia Corball, 9, said being in the play was her favorite part. She was the frog in “How the Coyote Brought Fire to the People.

“I really like summer school, so I’m sad I’m leaving, Corball said.

On the other hand, she’s looking forward to swimming and shopping trips to Grand Junction once “school” is out.

Neither students nor teachers got much of a break. School let out on a Friday, and summer school started the next Tuesday.

The upside is that the four-week program was also half days for four days a week.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031 or

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