This week, Summer Sol, the district’s new comprehensive summer program aimed at helping students move past the challenges of the pandemic kicked off to a great start, according to Director of Accelerated Learning and Support Director Brent Cummings.
“With a few days under our belt, we are serving roughly 1,100 kids districtwide,” said Cummings. “In the early morning, 8:30 to 10:30 a.m, we are currently accelerating roughly 250 elementary students, 50 middle school students, and close to 100 high school students in math and reading.”
Cummings reports he expects these numbers to grow throughout the week, and into next week. District staff are also contacting families at home to follow up with households whose students are enrolled, but not yet attending.
Morning acceleration teachers are focused on instruction, with dedicated curriculum from Scholastic, Newsela, and Ready Math, as well as Edgenuity for high school. In 7th grade math at Pioneer Middle School this week students were throwing paper plates to learn about integers, and in kindergarten reading at Berney, these youngsters were proudly standing in front of class sharing their reflections on the story they just read. At Green Park and Edison, students in grades K-2 have received reading and math instruction in Spanish as part of their dual language program acceleration.
“In each building, I’ve witnessed firsthand a lot of community building and classroom bonding between teachers and students over academic instruction,” said Cummings.
The mid-morning enrichment program is large and fun. At each building, 100 to nearly 200 more students show up for two hours of experiential activities from 10:30 a.m. ot 12:30 p.m. Elementary students have learned about stomatas (Farm2School), shared their personal stories through art (Carnegie Picture Lab), created theater costumes and props (Shakespeare Walla Walla), and engineered miniature machines (WSU 4H Extension). At the middle school and high school levels, students have participated in robotics, Rock Camp (Walla Walla Symphony), creative writing and graphic novel drawing (GEAR UP), and live-streaming/broadcasting the Walla Walla Sweets games and weekly recap show.
“Out of all of this, my favorite part thus far is that our 5-year-olds who start their morning at the Center for Children and Families for academic work are then bussed to the elementary schools for Enrichment,” said Cummings. “These students, many of whom barely come up to my knees, are getting an amazing first impression of their school building, and the students and staff have been so welcoming of their presence. It is an awesome part of the program and truly heartwarming.”
To close the day, there are nearly 250 students staying for onsite YMCA programming. This feature of the program is receiving praise from parents and students alike.
“As we close out this week, we will continue to engage more students in the high quality learning aspects taking place throughout all phases of this first-year program,” said Cummings. “There is room for growth, but we have taken a tremendous first step down this road.”