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Special version of summer school readies students for new school year

These students from the pre-kindergarten class sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" during the ESY (Extended School Year) program. (CONTRIBUTED)
These students from the pre-kindergarten class sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” during the ESY (Extended School Year) program. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – During June, a summer school session helped about 65 Madison students prepare for the new school year.

Mill Creek Elementary School hosted students with special needs in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Youth in grades 7-12 reported to James Clemens High School.

The Madison City Schools students ranged from three years old to late teens for this ESY (Extended School Year) program, Amy C. Williams said. Williams works in Horizon Elementary School’s special education department.

The summer program “reinforced and retained skills already mastered so the student may successfully transition into the next year,” Williams said. “Lessons and activities were based on each student’s current IEP (Individualized Education Program).”

For the theme “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” small-group and individual activities centered around four habitats: polar, desert, rainforest and ocean. Teachers concentrated areas of reading, language, math and social skills.

These students have a range of disabilities, such as learning disabled, developmentally delayed, deaf/hearing impaired, autism speech /language need and behavioral needs, she said. District employees provided occupational and physical therapy, speech language services and social skills.

Each class had one teacher and two assistants. Sylvia Lambert was lead teacher at Mill Creek. Laurie Viers was lead at James Clemens.

Interns from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Athens State and Alabama A&M universities assisted the staff “to make this a fun and productive experience,” Williams said.

Social worker Brenda Vactor visited each class about three times weekly. Students engaged in games, stories, songs, role playing and art to learn responsibility, respect, friendship and other social topics. The small-group exercises aligned well with the habitat theme.

Small class size and ample staff gave “lots of opportunities for one-on-one work to focus on functional and behavioral goals,” Williams said. “Some students had positive reinforcement systems to earn rewards,” like time for the computer or a favorite activity.

Teachers could better manage “negative behaviors because of the ratio of students to helpers and students all receiving the assistance they needed, eliminating some frustrations that can normally occur,” Williams said.

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