Fun Program Prevents Learning Loss for Students

POUGHKEEPSIE – For the 60 students in the district’s extended school year program at Krieger Elementary School, each week is a different adventure. They’ve explored the roles of different community members, learned about the rainforest and outer space and will soon explore under the sea, the circus and superheroes.

“Each week is a theme – we try to make it fun because it is summer,” Michelle O’Gara, one of three coordinators of students with exceptionalities serving as principal for the program. Students had a one of the district’s school safety officers speak with students, ‘Jackie the Magician’ visited, and they will have upcoming visits from the City of Poughkeepsie firefighters, as well as the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. They are hoping to secure future visits from the therapy dogs through Positive Paws.

The program is designed to prevent regression in students with exceptionalities who are at risk of losing the skills they just learned towards their goals this year if they don’t keep practicing them.

O’Gara said the ESY program provides academics, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, hearing services and social-emotional support. Participation is limited to students recommended for the program by the committee on special education.

Staffed by Poughkeepsie City School District teachers, teacher aides and behavior specialists, the program began July 6 and runs through Aug. 16.

“We have a dedicated staff and we are happy and lucky to have them,” O’Gara said, making sure to give a nod to her co-principals Triesha Foglia-Edwards and Alisa Balestrino.

During a recent visit, students were seen doing math problems, working on letter recognition and counting skills, building with interlocking blocks and enjoying some time outside – including one group of students who were fascinated by a moth they saw and answered questions posed by teacher Andrew French Jr.

One of those students, Aydyn Johnson, a fifth grader at Morse, said he was enjoying the program but wanted more outdoor activities. “Kickball is my favorite,” he said.

Inside, Daniel Pisco, a PMS eighth grader, was seen making tops out of interlocking blocks after working on some math problems. “I like reading mostly,” he said, adding that his favorite books are about history. “History is always interesting to me.”

After lunch, Carleigh Koren’s class sat down to review letters.

Koren sat with second grader Anwar Brown and fourth grader Malaysia Dukuly and asked them to pick one of two letters. Once they each chose their letter, Koren put a mix of paper tiles containing each letter on the table and instructed them to sort them, pick their letter and paste the tiles onto a piece of paper.

Meanwhile, Novela Cruz, a fourth grader, worked on her motor and counting skills using a bubble counting game on her touch-screen Chromebook.

Next week, the students will enjoy Circus week, which culminates with a carnival day Friday featuring different teacher-led activity stations and an ice cream social afterward.

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