More than 440 students help dispel summer school's poor reputation

by: COURTESY PHOTO: ART HEERWAGEN - Young Summer Skills Academy students work on an art project at Fern Hill Elementary School in Forest Grove.Last Wednesday, the Forest Grove School District’s long-running Summer Skills Academy (SSA) showcased its 24-day enhanced learning program at a morning-long open house at Fern Hill Elementary School.

Speaking to a group of more than 60 parents, Fern Hill’s acting principal and SSA Director Oswaldo Garcia said in both English and Spanish, “We want you to know this isn’t just a one-day open house. This school is open to you all year long. We want everyone to know what the SSA program is, and what its goals are.

“Most of all, we want you and your students to connect to the school.”

There were 56 pre-kindergarten, 249 kindergarten- through fourth-grade and 137 fifth- through eighth-grade students registered this year. SSA is paid for by state and federal migrant funds and requires a staff of about 70, including classroom teachers, instructional assistants, volunteers and support personnel.

Classes started July 7 and will conclude Thursday, July 31. Pre-kindergarten through fourth-grade students attend classes at Fern Hill from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and fifth- through eighth-graders attend at nearby Neil Armstrong Middle School from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

While parents enjoyed coffee, pastries and a sweet bread treat from Mexico called pan dulce, Garcia — who has been involved with SSA for more than seven years — said the program focuses on literacy, English language development (ELD), math and science.

“Our goal is to prepare students for what they will see in regular school, and to have the lower grades increase their math, English language development and reading [acuity],” said Garcia.

He added that the program’s focus is to see that students receive at least one hour of instruction in math, one hour in reading and one hour in ELD each day.

The strategy seems to be working. “If we see that certain students are exceeding our goals, they will attend additional enrichment classes,” Garcia said.

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