HARPER WOODS — While most people imagine schools closing down for the summer, except for a few key employees, Harper Woods Secondary School didn’t fit that image during a recent summer day.
There were children coming in for free lunches, taking part in activities in the building, and a small group of students gathered in the media center with workbooks in hand for a new program and a new initiative.
It’s the first year that the district is engaging in some serious summer learning beyond the summer school programs for students who need to catch up, and the enrichment opportunities for students who are looking for something to do. It’s real learning for all elementary students to help prevent the summer slide, and district officials are excited about the new program.
“(It’s) kind of three levels of summer school — very innovative,” Beacon Elementary Principal Janet Gottsleben said. “We haven’t done this before. I’m excited.”
Tyrone Principal Cheryl VanDerlinden also is excited about the opportunity for students.
“I am very proud of our staff and students for being so dedicated to making sure students have authentic learning taking place in the summer,” she said.
To help students with their tasks, the district is hosting a Lunch and Learn program at the Secondary School campus, from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays through Aug. 15, where students can work on their summer learning packets and get some help when needed.
Students were given a packet with a workbook to complete over the summer. To entice them to do the work, the schools have placed some incentives in the mix.
The district is hosting three check-in dates spread out over the summer. Students who attend the check-ins will receive incentives like pool, skating and movie passes. If they attend all three check-ins, they’ll get an invite to a picnic and magic show.
Gottsleben said she’d like to see 500 students pack Johnston Park for that picnic.
“That’s our goal,” she said. “That’s what we’re planning for.”
For the older students at Tyrone, they have an additional incentive in that the workbooks will count as their first grades of the year in their subjects.
Most importantly, this effort is meant to help students continue learning so they don’t end up losing some of what they gained the previous year. Studies show students who have large breaks, like summer vacation, do fall back in their academic skills by the beginning of the next year.
VanDerlinden said that the United States is one of the few countries that allow students to take the summer off, and the students here are competing against those countries that don’t take that time off.
“They can’t afford to take two months off of learning,” VanDerlinden said.
“Parents out there, please make sure your child is working in their packets,” Gottsleben said during a recent board meeting.
For parents who have trouble motivating their students to do the work, she recommended the Lunch and Learn opportunity.
If students struggle with a page in the workbook or it is confusing, Gottsleben said the student can skip that page for further assistance later.
“This is to be a motivating, confidence-building, skill-building experience,” she said.
School board members were excited to hear about the opportunity for summer learning.
“I think it’s great that the district is focusing on English language arts and mathematics at such an early age and getting them working on it over the summer,” Trustee Regina Williams said.
Kim Monts, who is running the Lunch and Learn program, said she had up to 10 students each day during the first week of the program.
“They pretty much work at their own pace,” Monts said. “Just a little bit makes a big difference.
“The ones that have been here, they seem to be enjoying what they’re doing and getting their work done,” Monts said.
Takiya Wilson brought her first-grade daughter, Makiya, for her first time at the Lunch and Learn program last week.
“It’s good to get them ahead,” she said of the program. “She’s excited about learning. She’s like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to learn.’”
When asked what she likes about it, Makiya replied that “it’s just fun.”
Traditional summer school programs will also be running in July, so students in that program can come for free breakfast, take their summer school coursework, eat lunch and stay for the Lunch and Learn program.
The district is hosting opportunities for summer school and enrichment programs for secondary students, as well.
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