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By starting refresher classes early, schools save on costs
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Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School Special Education parapro Darren Johnson visits Tuesday with summer students, from left, Shimar Bolton, Mandrell Banks and Keyshon Pullian during lunch. - photo by Tom Reed

At noon Tuesday, students at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School eagerly lined up to board buses and head home.

But, wait ... didn’t school end Friday?

Summer school for Gainesville schools started Monday and looks a bit different this year. Instead of breaking for vacation and coming back in June for three weeks, two weeks of review time was tacked on right after the end of the school year in light of budget cuts.

“We have people still under contracts until Thursday, so this saves us on personnel costs,” she said. “Bus drivers were working through today to make up snow days, and school nurses also stayed later. This way, the schools pay less for extra time.”

The students who are attending summer school will aim to improve their scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, which is a factor in determining Annual Yearly Progress for schools. Students will review reading and math skills before retaking portions of the test next week.

In Hall County schools, elementary and middle schoolers are tested early, and weak areas are identified so students can undergo remediation during the school year. Hall County does not provide summer school for CRCT retests.

“This move saves us $1 million, and it’s great because the students get remediation during the school year in their specific areas,” said Eloise Barron, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. “We have a captive audience at the school and don’t rely on them to show up for summer school.”

Chanel Bess, a third grade teacher at Fair Street, said she’s helping students with reading skills by teaching “outside of the box.”
“We go out to the garden, read and roll dice with reading questions,” she said. “Who wants to be cooped up in a classroom in the summer? This is better than pencil and paper and worksheets.”

Summer school gives teachers the class sizes they wish they had all year: about five students.

“It’s great to be able to do a lot more with them,” she said. “It allows them to take a moment to gather their thoughts.”

For Maria Harbeson, a recent Gainesville State graduate in early childhood education, volunteering as a student teacher for summer school helps her gear up for a job this fall.

“I’m helping the students to review math independently and with friends by working with flash cards,” she said. “It’s a great way to continue with my own personal education with the students.”

Harbeson said even two weeks of summer school is vital to help students “get a refresher” before re-taking CRCT sections.

“The teachers taught them well, but summer school is able to enhance the review,” she said. “So many of these students were close to passing the sections, but they just need that extra push.”

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