Propeling students toward a new school year
The difference in the elementary summer school program this year in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District is right there in the name. Rather than catching kids up on material they might not have grasped during the school year they just finished, the new Camp Propel is all about giving students a head start on the year to come.
Camp Propel, under way now at schools around the district, is the result of discussions the district had last fall. A planning team made up of teachers, administrators and others got together to talk about whether changes to summer learning were needed, and what a revamped program might look like.
It's not just the name that changed. Camp propel days are longer — at six hours instead of four — more organized and more streamlined, said Alyssa Bartosh, who oversees the program for the district.
Camp Propel is organized so all students at each grade level will get the same materials and cover the same lessons in the same way. They'll take the same field trips regardless of which school they attend.
On Monday, for example, fifth graders who attend Camp Propel at Rosemount Elementary School took a field trip to Lebanon Hills Regional Park. They spent part of their time running through a field catching bugs they would use in the rest of their lessons.
The district has reduced from 18 to eight the number of sites where the summer program is offered. That should help balance the offerings because in some cases smaller schools were not able to provide all of the opportunities available at bigger schools. In addition to core subjects, each site has specialists in music, art, phy ed and technology.
"It kind of excites the kids to come, because they like that part of the day as well," Bartosh said.
The district provides busing for Camp Propel students.
The changes aren't just about content. They're about the calendar, too. Camp Propel is taking place later in the summer than the old summer program, which took place in July. That placement nearly dead center in students' summer break made it an odd island in the middle of the summer, too far from the past school year and the next one to be associated with either.
"It wasn't really at the end of the school year. It wasn't really at the beginning," Bartosh said. "We want to make sure their learning is connected."
Bartosh hopes connecting Camp Propel sessions to the start of the new school year will help students who have struggled academically feel more comfortable when they head back to the classroom.
"They're really prepared and confident going into that school year," she said. "They're going to be the kids who have recently heard that language."
So far, at least, response to the new program has been good. Whether it's because of the changes or other factors, enrollment in the summer program is way up this year — from 1,427 students to 2,052. Bartosh will conduct a survey when the program is over to see what people think of it, but so far people seem happy with it.
"We've had really positive feedback from both parents and staff members," Bartosh said. "I think the overall consensus has been really positive."