Specialized summer school wraps up at the Roaring Fork School District

Jul 29, 2015

From left: Irene, Andrea, and Yusbani are about to begin 4th grade. They spent the summer in the Summer Advantage program at Crystal River Elementary.
Credit Elise Thatcher

  This summer is the fourth anniversary of a program in the Roaring Fork Valley that’s dedicated to helping mostly low income kids maximize summer school. There are about 200 hundred students attending class at Crystal River Elementary School.

  Irene, Andrea, and Yusbani are three of the scholars, as they’re called here, going through the free program this summer. The three are between third grade and fourth grade. They’re attending the Summer Advantage program to make sure they’re as prepared as possible for the next school year.

This is Irene’s third summer participating, and says she’s noticed it helps her with math, because “I’m pretty terrible at it.” She says answering hard problems correctly is the hardest part of that subject, but lots of practice is making a difference. Andrea, on the other hand, likes doing math, “because I like challenging things and I like to get better and better at it.” She’s also a big fan of one of the enrichment parts of the program, which take place on Fridays and involve field trips. Her favorite? “Aspen Mountain, because we did a lot of activities over there. And we learned about nature.”

Many of the scholars have never been to parts of the Valley, or even Carbondale. A significant percentage live in poverty or don’t have many resources at home. The program includes two meals, breakfast and lunch, to help kids learn to make sure they’re getting enough to eat, too. Summer Advantage is nationwide, but funded through the local foundation Summit 54 here in the Roaring Fork Valley. It’s coordinated with the help of the Roaring Fork School District. Overall the program costs $900,000 dollars.

The field trip to Aspen Mountain this summer was also a hit with Yusbani. He also likes a normally tough subject. “ I like doing math a lot. And reading,” he continues, “because when I go home, I read books.” Chapter books, to be specific.

Program Manager Nicole Tarumianz says this intensive summer school is all about tackling what’s called summer learning loss. “The children it affects most are at risk children,” she explains. “Because they don’t have the means to go to camps, and have tutors and often they’re the children at home, both parents are working, and they’re playing video games or watching TV.” With each summer, kids can get further and further behind.

This program has locations in Basalt and Glenwood Springs, too, bringing the total number of scholars to about 750. Any local students can attend, as long as parents are willing to make a commitment for attendance and participation... for both kids and parents.

“It’s been wonderful to have those kids in my classroom in the fall,” says Kyle-Lee Berry, Assistant Program Manager here at Crystal River Elementary in the summer. She also teaches 2nd grade during the school year. “So that way I can see this one came to Summer Advantage, and see that...they’ve definitely got those skills ready to get the school year started, and hit the ground running.”

Students are tested during the summer program, and there’s a plan to better compare that data with how other kids in the Roaring Fork School District are doing. Summer Advantage wrapped up this week at Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale, but likely will continue in spirit. The new principal at the school is from the Front Range, after teaching at the summer program previously.