October 20: Summer Offerings

October 20, 2017

Hello, Black River Falls Community!  This is Dr. Shelly Severson with the School District of Black River Falls here to share this week’s installment of our Spotlight on Schools! While the school year is finally getting into full gear and fall sports are already coming to an end, we are going to talk a little bit about summer...summer school that is.  I want to fill you in on the diverse offerings from the district during the summer months, as well as one of our most significant challenges of summer.

While most students look forward to the freedoms that come with summer vacation, there are a large number of students that use this time to take advantage of some unique learning opportunities that they simply couldn’t access during the school year.  As you may remember, the state funding for schools is tied directly to the number of students that enroll and attend our District.  The state uses a formula to take the total number of minutes that were attended by all students during the summer months and then translates that into the number of full-time equivalent students that a district may add to their enrollment count, thus increasing their state aid.  Summer school students do not get reimbursed at the same rate as students during the school year, but it is helpful in working to pay for the expense of the summer school programming.  This year through our summer programming, the District was able to count 24 additional students, which comes close to covering the cost of the programming.

So who came to school in the summer and what did they do?  Well, that list is long! We had summer programming for all grade levels beginning with the Kinder Camp, which is a way for our youngest students joining us in the fall to get acclimated to the Forrest Street building, meet some of their future classmates, and get a leg up on learning the routines of school. At the elementary level, we organize our summer programming into themed academies.  This year there were two separate weeks run, the first was a State Parks Academy and the second was a Secret Spy Academy.  During this themed week, the students are working on their fundamental reading, writing, and math skills, but also doing some fun hands-on activities that center around the theme.  During Spy week the kids were excited to discover clues and use their critical thinking skills to attempt to solve crimes!  Additionally, we send teachers to the Boys & Girls Club during the summer to work with the students attending there on their summer literacy skills.  At the middle school level, there was a great week of Robotics offered, twenty students took advantage of the opportunity to do some coding and designing.  Both of our bands are busy during the summer preparing for the fall parade season.  We also offer transition courses that are for kids entering sixth grade and their freshman year of high school.  The Agriculture Department is extremely busy in the summer!  They work on their land lab experiment with Jackson Electric, do tractor safety, attend leadership training conferences, and all of the heavy lifting that comes with the end of summer harvest from their plots.

One thing that we are extremely proud of is the free swimming lessons that the District continues to offer.  Long ago the District decided that we live in a community and region that is surrounded by wonderful natural resources and bodies of water and we committed to doing all we could to ensure the safety of our youth.  

In addition to all of this enrichment, we also offer credit recovery programs for students at the high school level that are credit deficient, due to failing courses during the regular school year.

I mentioned earlier that I would also talk about one of our greatest summer challenges...that is the significant amount of learning progress that our students lose during the summer months.  Each year the staff work diligently with students to help them grow to be reading at or above grade level, and then when they return in the fall they have dropped, on average, five to six months of instruction.  This cycle repeats itself year after year until a student has fallen well behind their classmates.  The national research tells us that the summer learning loss phenomenon is a problem everywhere. However, the problem is typically even more dramatic in low-income households.  The moral of the story is that we need to find as many ways to engage kids in reading throughout the year as possible!

As always, thank you so much for your support of the School District of Black River Falls!  If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me!  Let’s show our Tiger Pride in all that we do!

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