TOMS RIVER – The Extended School Year program in the Toms River School District is doing much more than providing a summer school for students in need of a little extra learning. It encompasses a variety of skills and learning into a six-week period to not only keep students occupied and stimulated in the summer months, but also to reinforce life skills they might not be able to retain during the regular school year.
The Extended School Year program, more commonly known as the ESY program, focuses on special needs students enrolled in Toms River Schools who are more likely to suffer from the dreaded “summer slide,” the loss of academic skills during summer months. The overall purpose of the program is to bridge the gap between June and September, as well as to maintain a sense of routine for the students, which makes for an easier return to school in the fall.
Kevin Huff, ESY supervisor, explained how the program is not just strictly academic, but also incorporates the teaching of multiple, diverse instructional skills that these students may struggle with during the school year.
“There are life skill components, as well as speech skills, social emotional learning, daily functioning learning, and OT/PT speech services,” Huff says. “We really try to harness what was taught during the school year and reinforce those skills, so that there won’t be excessive time spent reviewing what was lost over the summer months.”
Some of these life skills include gardening and cooking. This summer, students at Intermediate South are dedicating some of their time to maintaining a garden in the courtyard between two wings of the school. Their responsibilities include watering vegetables and tending to the various plants and herbs. This activity will culminate in a farm-to-table party at the end of the summer, in which some of the fruits of their labor will take center stage on the lunch table.
The ESY program runs four days a week over the six-week span, with classes occurring during the morning hours. It takes place at three district schools, including Beachwood Elementary, Intermediate South, Hooper Avenue Elementary, as well as at the Early Learning Center. The ESY program encompasses all grades, K-12, along with a “post-school” program, which welcomes post-graduates of the district up until the age of 21.
Not only does the program benefit the students when they return to school in September, but it also helps the families of the students at home.
“There are many students who struggle with emotional and behavioral issues,” Huff said, “so what we teach them throughout this program helps make things smoother at home during the summer months.”