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Falls public school students attend extended summer learning

The Niagara Falls City School District is making sure some young students keep learning this summer. WBFO's Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley visited an Extended Learning Program for first and second graders at the Harry Abate Elementary School. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Students attended Extended Summer Learning in Niagara Falls City School District.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Jazlyn Hamlett is enrolled in the Extended Learning Program.

“I'm learning about reading, math, those kind of fun things,” said Jazlyn Hamlett. She will be a third grader in the new school year Hyde Park Elementary School in Niagara Falls. She's excited to be attended this summer program at the Harry Abate Elementary School.

It is one of two extended learning programs underway this summer. The other is being held at the Cataract Elementary School.  

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Outside the Harry Abate Elementary School, Lockport Street, Niagara Falls, NY.

“This is not a traditional summer school. This is truly an extended learning program,” said Cathy Sullivan, educator and serving as the Response to Intervention Coordinator.

Students attend for just a half-day receiving about 90-minutes of English Language Arts and 90-minutes of Math each day, plus a snack. It is designed to provide the young students with extra instructional time and should prevent 'summer melt', knowledge that is often lost over summer months.

“I think they are excited about. I think it is enough of an instructional focus, but yet all the teachers have added some fun activities to it, kind of made it a little more relaxed setting and I think students are really fresh in the morning, so the half-day session is really valuable,” explained Sullivan.

This is the very first time the District is hosting this extending learning program.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Extended Learning Program.

“You see the kids are engaged and there are some different programs that we put place,” said Stan Wojton, educator and coordinator for at the Abate School.  He said it does have its challenges

“Getting any kinks out of the way, how we can improve in the future,” said Wojton.

There are about 120-students a day attend this extended learning sessions. Wojton instructed staffers to more sure they’re engaging with parents.

“I asked the teachers to either have an in person conversation with parents if they pick up their child, or make a phone call home to a parent or guardian just to try to build that relationship. And then, on my end, any students that have not been in attendance, call home, establish that relationship, answer any questions they may have to increase in enrollment and its worked and it is reflected in our numbers the last couple of days, so building those relationships are very important,” noted Wojton.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Teacher conducting a math exercise as part of the Extended Learning Program.

“When you keep learning in the summer, you don’t forgot things over the summer, so that’s what my mom signed me up for and it’s a fun program” said Hamliett.

Student Hamliett's mother is very support of her child's learning.

“My mom taught me how to like do kind of things like listen, talk to the teachers, because on my first day of school, I was really shy,” Hamliett remarked. 

In one of the classroom students enjoyed a snack bar as the teacher worked with them on math.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Inside the classroom at the Harry Abate Elementary School for the Extended Learning Program.

"Right now, what we were doing in the classroom – we were doing flash cards and what she did was make it a little funnier,” said Hamliett.

There is much debate about the need for longer school days and school years to enhance a student’s learning, especially for students living in poverty. Educators Wojton and Sullivan shared their personal views on how would benefit a student’s education.

“I truly feel that our calendar is archaic. I think we need to work through different structures. I would like to see ten months on, three weeks off all year long. I think the two month span, especially for children who come from impoverished areas is much too long,” Sullivan replied.  

“Our calendar is archaic. I will agree with that one, for sure. You know, just to see what programs we can be offered in the summer. Could it be a non-traditional environment where something similar to this – that is expanded throughout K-through 12. I think there needs to be something, exactly what yet, I don’t know, Wojton responded.

This summer program for the Falls city school children is considered a pilot-program to see where extended learning could take students into the future.