Summer school takes flight in North Kitsap

POULSBO — From the looks of it, Poulsbo Elementary has become a little more of an airport and a little less of a school.

Although there is no tarmac or runway, there are terminals at each door, and destinations in each classroom where groups of students attending North Kitsap School District summer school have focused on a country or region of the world.

Throughout their own versions of China, Japan and Thailand, elementary students have been working for the previous five weeks through reading, writing and math, all of which is interwoven with a lesson in history and geography from their regions of study. Culminating summer school this week were the various classrooms visiting their counterparts for presentations of what they’ve learned about different parts of the world.

“There’s a lot of unity here,” said Carol Cleveland, the district’s summer school principal. “It’s a very positive atmosphere.”

And the elementary is just one aspect of a busy — yes, busy — summer school program.

In total, there are 96 ninth through 12th grade students at North Kitsap High School, along with 140 preschool through sixth grade students at Poulsbo Elementary School, Cleveland reported. Eleven teachers at the elementary school and nine at the high school give instruction.

From special education to one credit class make-ups, many North Kitsap students have been hitting the books when most of their friends are catching rays.

“We have people who are at different points of the continuum,” said Chris Raffa, principal intern at the high school. “They either need certain skill building, had anxiety about a class or are taking advantage of a unique opportunity.”

A summer school program was also held at Suquamish Elementary, supported by the Suquamish Tribe, that ended a week prior to the conclusion of the other NKSD program.

Summer produces plenty of distractions — the beautiful weather, traveling opportunities and lounging with friends — but when the classes come together, work gets done, Raffa added.

“It’s a hard time for kids to be focused,” she commented. “But what’s nice is that they’re with others that have to be focused, the staff is really helpful and everybody’s working together.”

Maintaining what

they’ve learned

Last Thursday, the smells of fresh cupcakes emanated from one of the hallways at North Kitsap High School, one of two areas where Extended School Year (ESY) is taking place for those with mental or physical disabilities.

Special education teacher Emily Curran said the ESY program focuses on life skills — exercise, cooking, finances and hygiene — similar to many of the aspects of life the students deal with during the year. However, if they don’t continue their program in the summer, many of the students regress in what they’ve learned, she said.

“For some of the students, come September, we’re back to square one,” commented Leah Titze, fellow special education teacher. “These guys don’t do well with down time, their days (at school) are so structured. If you get rid of that structure, it’s mass chaos.”

But for the 13 students enrolled in the upper grade program, the three hours a day, four days a week sessions provide one-on-one attention, thanks to the teachers and their paraeducator staff. Staff can see students retain what they learned during the school year and gain a few new skills as well.

A large program incorporated into the “Countries of the World” theme at the elementary level is also helping many special education students maintain — and build — their education.

Computer for

the teacher

For some summer school students, a teacher isn’t even needed. The Digital Learning Commons (DLC), and another program called “NovaNet,” allow students to take courses online and through computer applications at NKHS.

Wayne Schmitz, a Bainbridge High School junior, is taking modern world history at North, as the island has no summer program.

“I didn’t do to well in it,” he said of the class when he attempted it during the school year.

The programs allow the students to go at their own pace through course work, then take quizzes and tests to determine their level of mastery. They must pass each with an 80 percent or better, and also must submit projects to NKHS career counselor Paula Patterson, who is overseeing the DLC and NovaNet students.

“I’m a really easily distracted person,” admitted NKHS junior Crystal Gresham, who is taking a computer course. “I can get more help here and it really helps if someone can explain it to me.

“And, you bond with your teacher,” she added, giving Patterson a hug as she walked by.

The punishment —

and the reward

There are, of course, those students at North Kitsap who haven’t been able to make the course cut during the school year, for a variety of reasons. Thus, the summer provides a catch-up time.

“I like to help the kids that have trouble with mathematics,” said Joe Power, Poulsbo Junior High School math teacher who has been teaching at the NK summer school since 1998. “I can make a breakthrough with some kids that are unmotivated (during the school year) and change their attitude, so they feel they can achieve in math.”

Power, with help from a couple of paraeducators, can work closely with each student. The result of which is around a six-to-one student-to-teacher ratio.

“These kids get caught in the cracks in the school year,” Power said. “But here, they’re less apprehensive about asking questions.”

For 20 days over five weeks, the students are immersed in the curriculum, having the chance to focus solely on one or two subjects, but also having to get through material at a much faster pace than at regular school.

“It is more intense,” said Power, “But we’re able to focus on key concepts.”

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