Learning in the summer
SUMMIT COUNTY – Summer in Summit County is often brief and intense. Summer school is similar – concentrated in a short time.
About 170 students from elementary schools around the county are enrolled in summer school at Dillon Valley Elementary this year, said Bonnie Brown, summer school principal for kindergarten through fifth grade. School is in session from 8:45 to 11:45 a.m. Monday through Thursday until the end of July.
“It’s kind of a compromise with the kids,” Brown said of the half-day schedule. This way, the children can review the skills they’ve learned during the school year and still enjoy their summer afternoons.
Summer school is designed for students who need more time with teachers, Brown said. Classes such as art, music, science, social studies and physical education aren’t a part of the summer program. Rather, the teachers and students focus on reading, writing and math.
“It’s more of a prescribed program – more structured,” Brown said.
The smaller classes provide students with more individual attention and more concentrated learning, said Marguerite Ritchey, who is teaching first grade.
“Because of the small class size, you can really do things with kids that they can’t during the rest of the year,” said Debbie Ruckriegle, who teaches fifth grade.
As during the regular school year, during the summer, some kids enjoy going to class while others do not – although most said it can be difficult to sit in class knowing some of their friends are having fun outside the academic world instead.
Chris Vangsnes of Frisco, who is going into second grade next year, has learned “to read a lot” this summer. Even so, he thinks summer school is “boring” and would give anything to be riding his skateboard all day instead, he said.
But sixth-grader Loreli Sales of Silverthorne and fifth-grader Jackson McNeil of Breckenridge don’t mind taking classes during the summer. They say they learn and make new friends. In particular, they like their teacher, Ruckriegle.
“She’s fun and energetic,” McNeil said.
“She makes all these fun games like this Oreo activity,” Sales said.
During Tuesday’s class, Ruckriegle’s students partnered up for the Oreo exercise. Each student took turns eating an Oreo cookie while his or her partner described the process in writing.
“It helps our writing skills,” Sales said of the exercise.
All the elementary teachers use Jump Start, a reading program developed by Denver Public Schools, for the reading segment of the summer program. Jump Start has workbooks geared toward each grade level. They also use Reading Naturally – a written and audio program that helps students read more fluently and develop vocabulary. The summer school has a math aide available to provide individual instruction to students who need it. Second- and third-graders also work on a computer program, and all the classes participate in a sustained silent reading period every day.
The daily reading stimulates success, Ruckriegle said, because the more kids read, the more they will comprehend. And the more they comprehend, the better they write.
“You just start opening doors to what knowledge is all about,” she said.
Because the goal of summer school is to review what was learned during the school year, officials don’t expect students to progress with leaps and bounds.
“For the most part, kids lose so much over the summer,” Brown said. “So if we can at least maintain where they were, they’ll be stronger (in the fall).”
Students learning English as a second language can be an exception to that rule.
“Some of them make big gains,” she said. “Being exposed to English all day, their English improves a lot.”
Lu Snyder can be reached at
(970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or
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