Denair launches new summer school partnership; there still is time for parents to register students

Summer school has a different look and feel in Denair this year. For the first time, the school district has partnered with EDMO, a Bay Area organization that specializes in summer and afterschool programs. The result is a fun-filled, high-energy and academically intense schedule that blends 16 Denair teachers with 16 EDMO employees and eight Denair support staff to present two two-week blocks of instruction in a camp-style environment.

The first block began Monday at the Denair Elementary Charter Academy campus and runs through June 16; the second begins June 19 and goes through June 30. There still is time for parents to register their children at Only Denair students in grades TK through eight are eligible to enroll. There are about 150 students in the current block and room for at least that many more in the second. 

EDMO’s program packs a lot of learning and activities into a full day. Students arrive as early as 7:30 a.m. and are treated to a free breakfast. An all-school rally is held at 8:15 to rev kids up and get them excited for the day. Then the students are broken up by grade level. From 8:45 to 10 a.m., Denair teachers focus on the first academic period – mostly reviewing concepts from the previous year to build retention and minimize the learning loss that can happen during the summer. 

At 10, all students have a 15-minute snack break, then they move to the first of two STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) periods. Wednesday morning, for instance, transitional kindergarten and kindergarten students in teacher Betsy Clark’s class used the STEAM time to draw dinosaurs, which were part of an earlier lesson. Across campus at a picnic table outside under a pavilion, seventh-graders working with EDMO camp counselor Yasmin Rivera were learning about chemical reactions when things like iodine, vinegar and water are mixed with salt, baking soda and cornstarch. That built upon fun exercises Monday and Tuesday when the same students learned about fingerprints and the fingerprinting process.

“The idea was they were forensic crime scene investigators,” explained Kayla McCain, EDMO’s site director in Denair. “First, they learned about lifting and identifying fingerprints. Today, it’s about pretending they’re collecting evidence. They have to write down what they observe. It’s a science lesson that includes English skills.”

At 11 a.m., students return to their teachers for the second academic block, which emphasizes reading, writing and math. By 12:15 p.m., it’s time for lunch, which is free for all students, who are grouped by age during that time. After lunch, there is a 30-minute block led by EDMO staff devoted to social-emotional learning, followed by a half-hour of games and recess.

From 2 to 3 p.m., there is more STEAM enrichment time. The formal school day ends at 3:15 after a checkout rally, but many students remain on campus as late as 4:30 p.m., the last time parents can pick them up.

“It’s nine full hours,” said McCain. “It’s a long day.”

The relationship with EDMO came about after DECA Principal Laura Cardenas was intrigued after reading information in February about the organization. She brought the idea to Denair Superintendent Terry Metzger and, by April, Denair officials and EDMO began creating a vision of this summer’s program.

“I’m very excited because I think they’ll be a good partner for us,” said Metzger while strolling through the DECA campus Wednesday. Denair is the first district in the San Joaquin Valley to work with EDMO, which has primarily been in the Bay Area.

Denair is using state money from the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program to pay the $200,000 cost of the month long program.

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