District launches unique summer school initiative

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published May 8, 2013

HARPER WOODS — Students in first through sixth grades in Harper Woods will all participate in summer school.

While that might prompt some moans and groans from little ones across town, the students don’t actually have to pack up their backpacks and walk to school each beautiful, sunny day. Instead, the two elementary schools are working on a home-based curriculum that will include things like a reading series with reflections and activities that build math skills.

The students will attend checkpoints during the summer, where they can turn in their work and take part in a celebration of their efforts, Superintendent Todd Biederwolf said.

“It’s part of our continuing commitment to enabling our students to perform at a higher level,” he said.

There is research that suggests that students do not retain everything they learned the year prior because of the length of time they are out of school in the summer. Then, the teachers have to spend time in the fall reviewing that information.

They are attempting this summer school initiative to try to prevent that regression.

“This initiative is intended to keep our students academically engaged,” Biederwolf said.

Biederwolf complimented the two principals, Beacon Principal Janet Gottsleben and Tyrone Principal Cheryl VanDerlinden, for their work in planning the new program. He thanked them for their leadership and creative thinking.

The two principals said that the teachers are very supportive of the new initiative.

“We’ve got books that are being ordered,” VanDerlinden said. “We have staff working on the curriculum.

“We are really excited about this,” she said, adding that the work will be worth each student’s first grade when they get back.

“For the first time, all kids are expected to do summer learning,” she said.

The middle and high schools will not be left out of the summer program opportunities.

“We have a wealth of programs that we’re offering this summer,” Principal Thomas Parker said. “The goal of this summer is to offer something for every student.”

That will include a program for students who struggled mastering some concepts, a program for those who mastered the concepts of the prior year but want to expand on that learning, and an end-of-the-summer program for students who will be new to the school.

“We want to make sure we take a week out and help those students transition in,” Parker said of the program for new students.