Educator Ashley Hull goes over numbers in her kindergarten class at Lincoln Elementary School.

Educator Ashley Hull goes over numbers in her kindergarten class at Lincoln Elementary School.

Photo by Patricia O’ Blenes

Students strengthen academics in summer school

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published July 12, 2021


WARREN — This summer, the classrooms at Lincoln Elementary School and Lincoln Middle School are busy with students who are improving their math skills, brushing up on their reading, learning about science and more.

That’s because the Van Dyke Public Schools district is offering a number of summer school programs for students at all grade levels. Joann Iras is the elementary school coordinator.

At the elementary school, there are several academic programs, including Kinder-Connect for students entering kindergarten, First Fundamentals for incoming first-grade students, a STEM program for grades 2-5, and literacy and math camps.

Some programs were designed for students who needed extra support and were recommended by their teachers for summer school. Other programs are enrichment classes for students whose families wanted to keep their kids busy this summer. The academic programs are offered in the mornings Mondays through Thursdays.

About 160 elementary students are in summer school, and all the programs are taught by VDPS teachers. The Macomb Intermediate School District provided the curriculum, which includes a focus on social skills to provide a sense of community in the classroom. Educators felt that was important since the students had been out of the classroom learning virtually during the bulk of the 2020-2021 school year because of COVID-19.

“The kids being physically in the building is the best part,” Iras said.

VDPS is also offering enrichment during the afternoon hours for students in grades K-12. The coordinators for the elementary grades are Heather Graef and Carol Scurti, while Arthur Treusch and Steve Filiccia are the secondary education coordinators. Students in the enrichment programs are spending their summer wrapped up in sports, health wellness, drama and theater camp, gardening club, volleyball camp, basketball camp, bowling, cycling, small engine repair, painting with a multicultural twist, summer crafting, and more.

“The teachers proposed classes based on their interests,” Iras said.

This summer also opened up possibilities for high school students interested in teaching, as the district is offering a teacher cadet program for high school students. The course is a paid internship, and the teacher cadets are working with the summer school students. Angela Rancilio is one of the coordinators and said there are nine juniors and seniors in the program during the first session.

“The ones that want to be teachers just dove right in,” Rancilio said. “Even the ones who recently considered being teachers, they absolutely love it.”

One lesson for McKinley teacher Jonathan Wright’s elementary students has been multiplication and fractions.

“I think they are catching on and getting the gist of it,” he said. “I just try to show them how it will relate to the real world.”

Lincoln fifth grader Kennedy Luke said this of summer school: “I love it. I would never leave if even for a million bucks. My cousins go here.” One class she really likes is “Ready, Set, Grow.”

“My teacher is amazing,” she said. “We plant flowers and do coloring and other things like that.”

“Good” is how Lincoln sixth grader Malik Elliott described summer school.

“We do work. We eat breakfast,” he said. “We switch classes. We go outside. We’re learning how to write about family and people and things.”

English language arts instructor Tina Misoni is one of his teachers.

“She’s nice,” he said. “She’s a good teacher.”

Over at Lincoln Middle School, the district is offering credit recovery for middle school and high school students using the PLATO digital platform. The programs are all online at the middle school, but the students are in the classrooms working to catch up on credit hours. Each student is placed with a certified teacher, is provided with a laptop, and has access to resource services. Lincoln Middle School Assistant Principal Derek Lawson is the coordinator and said about 200 students are enrolled.

“Maybe they didn’t pass some classes. This allows them to be on time for graduation. Things seem to be going well,” Lawson said. “The kids were kind of excited to be back in the building and see each other. They enjoy being back together again. It felt good to bring them back in. It was nice to be able to see them. They’ve grown and matured.”

The middle school courses were core curriculum classes. At the high school level, some elective choices were available along with the core subjects of math, English, science and social studies.

“We’ve had more kids this summer than we’ve ever had,” Lawson said.

He added that learning online during the school year “was really difficult for” some of the students. Having a teacher there in person “makes a huge difference,” he said.

Summer school session No. 1 runs June 28 through July 23; session No. 2 begins July 26 and ends Aug. 20. Free breakfast and lunch are provided. Some students will attend one session, while some will attend both.