Students get half-day on Friday |

Students get half-day on Friday

SUMMIT COUNTY – When Summit County’s schools release their students early at 12:30 p.m. Friday, the children actually will be benefiting from extra school time.

The half-day is the result of a mill levy voters approved last November. The extra property tax money appropriated by the measure added two days back to the school’s calendar, among other projects. District officials split the two days into four half-days divided over the school year’s four quarters.

Assistant Superintendent Millie Hamner said she hopes parents didn’t forget about the half-day and stressed the learning opportunity the latter half-day will present to the district’s teachers.

“Whenever you change things at school, people don’t generally cheer,” Hamner said. “But we’ve tried to make things more palatable with options.”

Summit Day Camps, the county program the school district contracts to provide summer recreation and learning activities, is offering camps for the half-days. Teachers sent registration information home with students two weeks ago; the registration deadline was Friday, Oct. 4.

“The camp gives parents the option of picking kids up at 3:45, the end of the regular school day, or 5:30 p.m., just like an after-school program,” said Summit Day Camps director Teresa Moore. “We’ll be offering these at each school site for the other half-days, as well as the days off.”

The district will use the afternoon to provide in-house training for teachers. Traditionally, teachers have had to travel out-of-district for professional development programs, and in-district offerings have been limited to small groups. Hamner said it’s important for all of the district’s 200-plus teachers to “hear the same message and take ownership in the program if we’re going to position ourselves to make a difference.”

The first districtwide staff development day will focus on writing. Hamner said each school’s literacy resource teachers will make presentations and facilitate discussions on increasing consistency across writing programs. Students should be taught and graded the same whether they attend Breckenridge or Silverthorne elementary schools, Hamner said, and teachers will develop common expectations for student papers and adopt a common set of editing marks for evaluating them. A second session will challenge teachers to examine the data on students’ past performance in writing.

“What we’ve learned is that failure to master language – reading, writing and listening critically – guarantees students will become second-class citizens,” said Greg Denman, the school district’s writing consultant.

Denman will lead workgroups at two of the school sites. District officials hired him with the help of a two-year, $160,000 teacher development grant to assist with this and other teacher training sessions. Denman, a Colorado Springs-based consultant, brings research-based materials and expertise on implementing instructional strategies to teachers. “There are two factors we can say for sure are tied to college success,” he said. “And those are reading and writing.”

A third Friday session will put teachers to the same task students are assigned: Using technology such as word processing and presentation software, teachers will complete writing assignments. The assignments require teachers to incorporate their own subject matter and writing, Hamner said, whether they teach physical education, music or more traditional academic subjects.

“This will develop empathy,” Hamner said. “We want teachers to understand the struggle of students and what learning takes place when they’re writing.”

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