The Kerman Enrichment Summer Adventures is to summer school what laptops are to the chalkboard.
The 600-plus kindergarten-through-eighth-grade students at Goldenrod Elementary School create glass etchings, 3D artwork, and wind-powered toy cars.
Or, they can dive into Mexican folkloric dancing, cheer & dance, yoga, or singing.
“It’s a non-traditional summer school,” said Kerman Unified School District superintendent Robert Frausto last Thursday during a tour of the eight-week program. “The kids are enjoying coming every day; they don’t see it as summer school. They see it as fun.”
The district is investing $13.8 million in supplemental concentration money it gets from the state to help fuel the summer program that also provides breakfast, lunch and free transportation.
Certain days are set aside as Twin Day, Nerd Day, Jersey Day and Zany Day to break up whatever monotony hasn’t gone extinct.
The traditional summer school wasn’t working in our middle schools.
Kerman Unified superintendent Robert Frausto
It is not glorified babysitting. Forty instructors, some of them working on their teaching credential, build rapport with students excited about working on projects that veer drastically from the basic Rs of education.
The older students, however, are assigned the book ‘Tesla’s Attic,’ the first in a series, in an effort to boost their reading level.
Yvonne Villicano, who will be a freshman at Kerman High School in the fall, is a second-year participant in the program.
“I like that we make different kinds of stuff and get to keep them and take them home,” said Villicano as she worked on a glass etching.
She is also taking a class in making a yearbook. Last year, she took classes in dance and fashion.
The program – called KESA Jr. (for those up to fourth grade) and KESA – was grafted from a similar program at Central Unified.
“We didn’t re-invent the wheel. I copied this from Central,” said Frausto, who has previously worked for the Merced County Office of Education and the Madera school district.
Next year will mark Frausto’s decade with the Kerman district.
Frausto figures that the old model wasn’t working because students were normally stuck in summer school because they were failing regular school work.
The district now uses intervention during the school year through after-school tutoring or Saturday school to make sure they don’t fall behind. In the past, those students would have ended up in summer school.
“The traditional summer school wasn’t working in our middle schools,” said Frausto, who grouped all the elementary students into the Goldenrod program. (The high school retains its traditional summer school).
Summer education proponents like Nazaneen Khalilnoji-Otto loves programs like Goldenrod. And, her group, the Partnership for Children and Youth, has launched a campaign to promote the programs and lobby lawmakers to assure continued funding.
“We want to ensure that all students have high qualify summer education,” said Khalilnoji-Otto, campaign director for the partnership’s Summer Matters effort.
The summer, she said, is a critical time for students if you look at the academic achievement gap. Two-thirds of students, said Khalilnoji-Otto, fall farther behind their peers in learning.
“It’s cumulative over time. They don’t catch up,” said Khalilnoji-Otto. “This is not OK. We want to build that awareness.”
The campaign works to make sure state lawmakers make funding available so that low-income students can compete academically with other peers who attend private camps or take family vacations that enrich their education.
“It’s a great return on investment,” said Khalilnoji-Otto.