MERCED — Five hundred to 600 elementary school children will get a chance to enhance their English language skills as the Merced City School District offers a modified summer school program.
Second- through fifth-graders at all of the district's elementary school sites who have scored below grade level on English language development tests will get a chance to participate in the five-week program at Burbank and Sheehy schools.
There are about 2,000 students classified as English learners in the district.
Annie Dossetti, assistant superintendent for educational services, said details of the summer program are still in the works, with considerable planning efforts anticipated between now and May.
A principal, 16 part-time teachers and two office managers have yet to be hired for the program, which will run June 10 through July 12, from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.
Superintendent RoseMary Parga Duran said the district has not been able to afford traditional summer school sessions for a number of years. She is excited for a chance to move up students who need extra help with English language and mathematics skills.
"I'm looking forward to having something in the summer for the students. These kids get stuck at a level and need an extra push," Duran said. "Our objective is to send them on to middle school and high school with the skills needed to be successful in English."
This summer's program will see the purchase of iPads and Chromebooks for student use. These devices will keep students motivated, said Greg Spicer, associate superintendent for administrative services.
Spicer is hoping to conduct research on the effectiveness of using iPads and Chromebooks for poorly performing students during the regular school year, based on summer outcomes.
"For the last five years, summer school has taken a hit from funding issues," Spicer said. "We know one of the best strategies is to give students more time to learn. This will give them a leg up, and I think it will pay off."
Students with limited English skills can converse with others but their vocabulary and academic skills are limited, Spicer said.
Dossetti said the summer program will enhance students' reading and writing skills through exposure to nonfiction books and help prepare them for the Common Core method of instruction all schools must adopt for the 2014-15 school year.
The program is expected to cost $117,000 and money to purchase the iPads and Chromebooks will come from restricted carryover funds, Spicer said, and won't be considered part of summer school expenses.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.