Students bolster English skills during summer

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comJune 29, 2013 

More than 400 second- through fifth-grade students are bolstering their English-language skills through an English learner summer academy being run at Burbank and Sheehy elementary schools in Merced.

Half-day sessions, which began June 10, will run through July 12 with limited transportation and lunch provided, according to Annie Dossetti, assistant superintendent of educational services for the Merced City School District.

Dossetti said participating students got intermediate scores on the California English Language Development Test. Vocabulary and English language development will be highlighted.

Students designated at the intermediate level are able to understand more concrete details in English but need continued support to eliminate errors. Once an English learner's scores improve, they will be redesignated and won't need to keep attending English language development classes.

Summer academy students are using Google Chromebook or Apple iPad tablets, which will be pressed into service during the 2013-2014 school year.

"It's amazing to watch these kids learn how to file, email each other and use the camera," Dossetti said. Students learned how to create documents, read and write stories, and cut and paste material into computer files.

Sixteen teachers are working 4½-hour days, and each school has an office manager. Sessions run from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. Jerod Garst and Aaron Alexander are co-principals.

Of the 412 students, 333 students reported Spanish as their home language. Another 44 students speak Hmong, with three each speaking Punjabi, Mien and Lao languages.

The district also is offering an extended year program for about 40 special education students this summer at Sheehy Elementary School. Three teachers are working with students four hours a day, along with three special education instructional aides.

Some of the special education students have disabilities and are a couple grade levels behind their peers, Dossetti said.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or

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