School’s Out? Not For These students

Ashley Nuno, 15, a sophomore at Lost River High School, helps her brother, Daniel Lara, 8, with the xylophone lesson in Sharon Cosand’s second-grade class. Nuno, who is volunteering at the summer school, wants to be a kindergarten teacher. (Marcia Schlottmann, KCSD).

Ashley Nuno, 15, a sophomore at Lost River High School, helps her brother, Daniel Lara, 8, with the xylophone lesson in Sharon Cosand’s second-grade class. Nuno, who is volunteering at the summer school, wants to be a kindergarten teacher. (Marcia Schlottmann, KCSD).

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KCSD migrant summer school triples enrollment over three years; kids get jump start on fall

Brian Leon knows why he attends migrant summer school. And it’s not just to hang out with his friends. “I go because I want to learn and I need help, mostly with reading,” he says.

Leon, 11, will be a sixth grader at Malin Elementary in the fall. He’s one of 189 students this summer who are voluntarily attending the Klamath County School District’s 19-day program, spending their days working on math, reading and writing. 

The program, which is federally funded, is for migrant students and English language learners. Currently, nearly 600 students in the district qualify for the program. It is taught by district teachers, who often do so because they see benefits in their classrooms in the fall.

Axel Vazquez de la Cruz, a student in Brittany Carr’s pre-kindergarten class, examines his sunflower plant during an enrichment activity at KCSD’s migrant summer school. (Marcia Schlottmann, KCSD)

Summer school fifth-grade teacher Janine Fairfield says the extra instruction days really help students because she can review as well as “front load” curriculum. Right now, her students are studying fractions, a section new sixth graders often struggle with in the fall. “I’m pre-teaching that section so when they get there, they’ve got it,” she says.

Enrollment in the district’s summer migrant school has tripled in the last three years from 60 students to more than 180 students, according to the program’s principal, Ruben Paschal.

Mary Mateos, federal program coordinator for the Klamath County School District, is pleased at the growth of the program. Of the nearly 600 district students who qualify under program guidelines, a third are attending summer school. “We would love to have them all,” she says.

“Our district data show our EL (English learners) and migrant students perform better than those in most schools in Oregon,” Mateos says. “Statistics show the less the learning gap is in the summer, the better students perform in the fall.”

Attendance averages 160 to 170 students daily and includes pre-kindergarten through 12th graders. Kids are bussed from all over the district to Shasta Elementary to attend class.

“I strategically start the Monday after school’s out in June so they’re still in the school routine,” Paschal says. “We have a wonderful team of teachers and paras who want to be here.”

Brian Leon, 11, works on a gun safety poster, which will be displayed at Oregon Institute of Technology. He voluntarily attends migrant summer school to improve his reading skills. (Marcia Schlottmann, KCSD).

Many of the students are bilingual as is Paschal. He greets kids in Spanish and English as they exit the busses for a day of school. “Kids speak a lot of Spanish when they’re here because their friends also speak it. It reinforces their primary language,” he says.

The program offers classroom learning for pre-K through eighth grades and credit recovery for high school students. Other high school students work as volunteers, receiving community service hours.

“We have a lot of student volunteers who just want to volunteer and give back,” Paschal says.

Academically, the teachers teach the same curriculum used in their regular classrooms. In the mornings, the focus is on reading, writing and math. After lunch, students participate in enrichment activities such as science and art projects and music.

“It is absolutely school. It’s about 99.9 percent academics,” Paschal says. “The teachers make it so fun, and the kids come because they want to be here. Students stay in the grade they were in and teachers reinforce the curriculum, usually the last module their class covered in math and reading.”

Teachers plan their curriculum ahead of time, making sure to address specific state standards in reading and math.

Second-grade teacher Sharon Cosand believes the summer school program is essential for students whose primary language at home isn’t English. “It gives an extra month of instruction that they really, really need,” she says. “It fills in gaps. For some, their parents may not speak English so they’re not getting the vocabulary their peers are getting.”

“We really see a gap in writing,” she adds. “If you don’t know the language and can’t fluently speak it or read it, it’s hard to translate it into the written word.”

On Fridays, students go on field trips, including a day at Crater Lake National Park. They also attended the Oregon Invent competition at Oregon Institute of Technology and on the last day of school – July 13 – will go to the Pelican Cinemas for a movie.

Paschal also throws in an attendance incentive: If they attend every day, their names are entered into a drawing for a new bicycle.

Yoselyn Torres Romero heads to class as Ruben Paschal, principal of KCSD migrant summer school, greets students exiting the busses in the morning. Nearly 190 students are enrolled this year for the 19-day program. The school is at Shasta Elementary this year. (Marcia Schlottmann, KCSD).

Getting ready for school

Brittany Carr teaches pre-kindergarten. The 14 pre-K students in her class will be kindergarteners in the fall. Her curriculum covers the first few weeks of kindergarten coursework. Students learn the first three letters of the alphabet and sight words. They practice writing their names and learn how a classroom operates.

The pre-K program started three years ago as the brainchild of Paschal and Carr.

Carr says the program has a positive impact, which she saw firsthand last fall when a student from the summer program was in her fall kindergarten class at Stearns Elementary. The impact isn’t just academic.

“They learn a lot of fine motor skills, how to sit at the carpet and follow directions,” she says. “It helps with the anxiety level in the fall when they are in a bigger classroom.”

The social skills picked up in a classroom setting as well as learning how to communicate with teachers and classmates is key to helping students transition to kindergarten, she says.

For their enrichment activity, Carr’s students planted sunflower seeds, which by last week were sprouting. Students learned about parts of the plant and kept track of their seeds’ progress by drawing pictures in their plant journals.

Jasmin Hernandez, 14, who will be a freshman at Lost River High School this fall, volunteers in the pre-K classroom with her sister, Karla Hernandez, 15, who will be a sophomore. They are among 12 high school students who work in the program as volunteers.

“How many stems do you see?” Jasmin asks Favian Meza. They count together: “One, two, three, four.” The sisters speak both English and Spanish to the students. “Some of these kids prefer speaking Spanish,” Karla says. “I use both.”

In Ashley Higgins’ kindergarten class, students are learning about sentences – what they start with and how they end. Students take turns coming to the front of the group, moving a marker slowly under the words on display.

“Starting with a capital, she’s going to go until she gets to a …,” Higgins asks. Her students excitedly finished her sentence: “Period!”

“Good job,” she says.

Giovanny Cortez-Ledezma plays xylophone as part of a second- grade class enrichment activity.(Marcia Schlottmann, KCSD).

Making Time for Music

Despite the emphasis on reading, writing and math, teachers try to make summer school fun, adding enrichment activities such as science projects, art and music.

Cosand, the second-grade teacher, is teaching her students as well as the first-grade class how to play xylophones.

“The tempo is how fast or how slow you go,” she explains during a session last week. ”Everyone clap with me. Now, get your mallets up please. We’re going to play G, G, F, F, G, and I also want you to sing it.”

Ashley Nuno, 15, sophomore at Lost River High School, volunteers in Cosand’s class, often working with her little brother, 8-year-old Daniel Lara, who will be a third-grader at Malin Elementary this fall.

“I want to be a kindergarten teacher,” she says as she watches her brother play the notes for “Bingo.”

Karishma Malakar, 13, also volunteers in Cosand’s classroom as well as in other classes. “I just want to help them learn to the best of their ability,” she says. But she doesn’t want to be a teacher. “I want to be a neurosurgeon.”

Cosand says she teaches xylophones as an enrichment activity because research has shown learning music is good for brain development.

“I believe music is tremendously important in education,” she says. “Since I’ve been a teacher I’ve always incorporated music in my curriculum.”

Press release provided from the Marcia Schlottmann, Public Relations, Klamath County School District.