At Sugar Hill Elementary School, summer school is more than remedial classes. It also includes hands-on workshops with Home Depot, lessons from historical re-enactors and visits from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit.
Carie Smith Love, a fourth-grade teacher at Sugar Hill, has a group of rising fifth-graders for three weeks of summer school. She’s arranged several summer school events to incorporate career and talent into her elementary school classes.
Sugar Hill is in the process of becoming a “career and talent” magnet school for the fall, and Love said she chose the visitors with this in mind.
“I tried to get careers that go either way, college-bound or not,” she said. “That way, if they don’t go to college, at least they have in mind, ‘OK, I can have a career.’”
Terry Jackson from Jackson Electric Membership Corporation spoke about electrical jobs, some of which require degrees, while others include employee training. Todd Bouldin from Chili’s in Flowery Branch discussed careers in the restaurant business, and Ashley Wilkins visited from the Home Depot in Flowery Branch. She conducted a workshop with students and taught them to construct and paint wooden boats and tool baskets.
“It was really fun for me to see them do this hands-on,” Love said. “And some of them were such perfectionists, you just know, ‘OK, that’s your area. This is what you’re good at.’”
Jonathan Jackson and Charles Wallace with the Hall County K-9 Unit also visited the class with one of their dogs. Love said the lesson was not only about careers in law enforcement.
“The kids were bonding with the dog, and we want them to build relations with them,” she said. “If (law enforcement) goes into their homes, which a lot of times here they do, we don’t want these kids to think of the police as bad.”
Wednesday, the class’s visitors were Carter Wood and Ed Rigel from the Sons of the American Revolution’s Lyman Hall chapter, Bruce Maney from the Button Gwinnett chapter and Leslie Watkins from the William Day chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. They taught the students primarily about Georgia’s part in the American Revolution, while donning historical costumes and sharing artifacts from the 1770s.
These students are not those in most need of remedial work, Love said. The students who struggle most during the school year are often the least willing to attend summer school at the elementary level, Love said. Instead, these students are typically “middle of the pack,” and the summer program helps them get ahead for the fall and avoid summer learning loss.
Love said the students who don’t attend summer school typically lose at least a grade level of reading and will forget most of their basic math facts. The summer program keeps these tools fresh and gives kids ideas about their future.
“They want to come back,” Love said of her students. “Our attendance has been great. And they go home and tell their friends and siblings about it, and the next day we’ll have another few kids who want to come. That’s been really positive.”
The primary objective for Love is to encourage her students to come back to school. She said many students in her West Hall area struggle with the transition from elementary school to middle school, and their education stops being a priority.
“The thing is, some of these kids will not go to college,” Love said. “But the goal is to keep them in school and to give them a target. If we can say, ‘This is your goal. This is where you want to go,’ they’ll shoot for that.”