MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — This week, the Martin County School District will wrap up an expanded summer school session to help prepare students for the new school year and make up for lost learning.
One new program is designed to help incoming middle school students and high school students transition to their new school environment.
This transition program was funded by a $30,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties. About 30 students are participating at Stuart Middle School and about 40 at Jensen Beach High School.
The program focuses on math, English-language arts and social emotional learning.
Incoming sixth grader Diego Tahay says he is really enjoying the five-week program. "It's so fun working with our team, like they're your friends and teamwork makes the dream work people say, and it's so fun."
Stuart Middle School Principal Ebony Jarrett says the program comes at the perfect time, as students are dealing with the typical transition to middle school on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We wanted to be able to work with those students who need us most, to get them on campus early, to learn the campus, to learn important people they are going to be working with, some of their teachers, some of their administrators, just to get them ready for middle school," said Jarrett. "Elementary school to middle school is huge, it is such a big transition so to give them a jump start on the skills they'll need the most. Sme of our students are coming off the virtual instruction, some are coming face to face, coming to middle school most of them had been with one or two teachers, now they are going to be working with seven teachers so we want to build that relationship with not only the students but their parents as well."
Jarrett says they have already seen growth and change in the students who are participating in the program.
"You've seen kids be very, very nervous, to immediately now they are jumping out of the car or getting off the bus excited to get to the cafeteria, sitting down having breakfast," said Jarrett. "You see that confidence in them with the social emotional learning, you see them building relationships with friends from different schools. That resiliency we want to see in our students is so important, that confidence, that self-motivation, that I CAN attitude, that's really important to us."
At Jensen Beach High School, a similar program is guiding incoming freshman into the high school experience.
Math teacher Jaclyn Schlein is helping them fine-tune their math skills to put them a step ahead before the school year officially begins.
"I think it's definitely going to give them a leg up over their peers who are going to be here in August and they’re going to be ahead and be more confident than anybody else," Schlein said.
The program teaches math, English, and what school leaders call "soft skills" needed for high school, like how to use an agenda planner and stay organized. Student Emily Uquillas is glad she participated.
"It's better to practice before you get into school because I want to do good and I want to get better grades and I want to keep on task," Uquillas said.
Principal Lori Vogel is thrilled to have the program at her school this summer for kids who need it most.
"Most of our low 25 kids and our socio economic disadvantaged kids who have a really hard time transitioning to high school, so we have the opportunity to have them here for five weeks over the summer and they get a half credit for their work . Some of these kids, this is their first experience back on a school campus and that's huge," Vogel said. "A lot of times kids struggle and it gets their GPA first semester, and then they have to spend the rest of the four years making up for their GPA so we’re hoping to track these students and make sure that doesn’t happen to them."
Both principals hope to continue the programs next year, and see them expand to other district schools as well.