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Published: Wednesday, 8/14/2002

Summer class to aid children entering kindergarten

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

WAUSEON -- Fifteen children who have yet to start kindergarten are to finish a 12-day summer school course, complete with homework, at Leggett Street Primary School today that is thought to be the first of its type in the area.

Kindergarten teacher Julie Wilhelm proposed the idea to Wauseon school administrators last spring in hopes of helping those children who had had trouble writing their name and identifying letters and numbers when they registered for kindergarten in March.

“We've been talking so much lately of no child being left behind,” Mrs. Wilhelm said.

Expectations for kindergarten children have increased greatly in recent years and this school year is the first for all Ohio kindergartners to take a standardized test at the end of the term.

State leaders want the children to be able to dictate a simple story, write from left to right and top to bottom leaving space between words, and be familiar with punctuation marks.

But the state test wasn't the determining reason for Mrs. Wilhelm's proposal, she said.

Mrs. Wilhelm wanted to help youngsters who seemed behind in March catch up before school started, and she realized that the packets of stories and worksheets that she sent home with the parents at registration time weren't always used.

In other cases, the children didn't catch on at home.

Mrs. Wilhelm invited 23 of the 146 children who registered for kindergarten to the summer school, scheduled for two hours a day, four days a week, for three weeks.

Of the 15 children attending, many could not name all the colors and most seemed unfamiliar with using scissors.

“It's the basics we all take for granted,” she said.

The school charged $35 per pupil, which covers a little more than a quarter of the total cost of the program.

Labor costs for the two teachers, Mrs. Wilhelm and first-grade teacher Peggy Sullivan, totals $1,900.

In part, the charge was to encourage parents to get their child to summer school every day.

The school did not provide transportation.

“If people pay they take it more seriously,” said Carolyn Short, principal at Leggett.

Teachers have been assigning 10 to 15 minutes worth of homework most nights.

That homework assignment includes a book for parents to read to their children and practice with writing letters and numbers.

The 24 hours that the children will have spent on simple reading and math in summer school probably won't make a big difference in the number of children who are assigned to all-day, every-day kindergarten.

Most kindergartners attend class a half day on Mondays and a full day either on Tuesdays and Thursdays or Wednesdays and Fridays.

But those who appear behind early in the year are asked to attend sessions all-day, every day.

For some of the children, adjusting to summer school, during which they are expected to raise their hand before speaking and to keep their hands and feet to themselves, has been more difficult than for most youngsters starting kindergarten, according to Ms. Short.

And for such pupils, getting used to school rules early might be almost as valuable as the skills they're being taught.

“Even if they're able to focus and follow school rules, that's a real benefit,” Ms. Short said.



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