West Holmes summer program in full swing

West Holmes summer program in full swing

Image Credit: Dave Mast

While graduation and end-of-school celebrations took place at the end of May, not all schools are dormant. West Holmes High School is currently a beehive of activity as students fill the halls and classrooms during summer school, where students are gaining some valuable education with the hope that the sessions are leaning toward the more enjoyable side of learning.

Led by West Holmes Schools literacy coordinator Toby Yoder and Millersburg Elementary physical education instructor Megan Stryker, the whole idea behind summer school is to jam learning and fun into one education sandwich.

“It’s summer, and we want the kids to have fun,” Yoder said. “But obviously, we want them to learn at the same time. There’s a balance there that we were hoping to hit because we didn’t want it to be a chore but rather something they looked forward to coming to.”

Yoder said they received a great response from students, which in turn forced them to find a couple more teachers than they had originally thought, especially at the primary level.

The summer classes were designed for kindergarten through grade 12, with credit-recovery classes for high school that help them get class requirements they may not have had previously.

Kindergarten through eighth grade occupied the main floor of the high school, where younger students sat on the floor and listened to teachers read while others read through assignments.

“We had around 110 students from kindergarten through eighth grade,” Stryker said.

The summer is broken down into two three-week sessions with the first session focused on reading and the second session zeroing in on math education. A welcomed addition to the first sessions was visits by the Holmes County District Public Library bookmobile, which gave students a chance to check out reading material that suits their taste.

Of course, the classes don’t teach themselves, so finding willing and capable district staff to head up the classes is of the utmost importance. The district invited all staff to participate and got a nice response, ensuring the students in attendance had every chance to succeed this summer.

Yoder said initially summer school attendees are via teacher recommendations, and then it opens up to others who want the opportunity to grow and develop educationally.

“Our teachers do a wonderful job of teaching and keeping the kids engaged,” Yoder said.

The curriculum put in place is intervention teaching used in the classroom, and they have aides and title teachers in attendance to lend a hand.

Stryker said one of the focuses for summer school is keeping class sizes smaller so interventions can be worked on and kids can be brought up to speed. Classes focusing on whole group speech, occupational therapy and more helped create learning opportunities.

“I do social and emotional learning with them in a physical education setting,” Stryker said. “It’s more than just the basics. Usually in school, just a portion of kids get (social emotional learning), but in summer school all kids will go through that, and it really benefits everyone.”

She said it adds another beneficial property in that it mixes in students from each of the district’s four elementary schools, meaning students are introduced to other students from outside of their own school with whom they will one day be attending school together in middle school.

“They get to know some new kids, which is always good,” Stryker said.

In addition to summer school, many youths are attending football, basketball or volleyball camps. To work with families, the district transports children who are involved with the various sports camps within the district.

“We wanted to do what we could to help the parents out as much as possible,” Stryker said.

In addition, students are served breakfast in the morning and lunch, meaning they get two solid meals every day.

“The most important thing is that we continue to build this program as a fun, educational thing and we remove that summer school term that doesn’t sound all that great,” Stryker said. “Let’s all come and learn and have fun.”

Yoder said hearing the kids laughing and having a good time while learning as he walked the halls told him they were succeeding in combining every aspect they had hoped to present in the summer project.