ymca summer school

Until recently, the YMCA offered classes adapted during the pandemic at The Mint in Hailey.

The Wood River Community YMCA is ramping up its summer school programs to bolster students’ learning skills after a challenging pandemic year spent largely out of the classroom.

To help get kindergarten through elementary students up to speed for the upcoming school year, the YMCA will forgo most of its traditional summer camps and focus its staff on these academic “interventions,” Executive Director Jason Shearer said.

“We understand that these kids have been through a lot,” YMCA Executive Director Jason Shearer said. “While we will be making up for lost school days, it’s going to feel like play, like summer camp.”

Partnerships with the College of Idaho and the Sun Valley Community School will aid the effort. The YMCA has enlisted a team of 17 teacher interns from the College of Idaho and two certified Teach for America teachers to help in the effort. The Community School will house those instructors in its Ketchum dorms and provide weekly activities for them.

“We could never have pulled this off without these outside groups,” Shearer said. “Our local teachers have been working double duty and they’re exhausted.”

New this year is the YMCA’s Summerbridge five-week day camp at Alturas Elementary School in Hailey, open to rising kindergarteners through fourth-graders. The program is open to everyone, including recommended Blaine County students and will include a literacy component.

The YMCA’s existing Power Scholars program at Bellevue Elementary will continue. Shearer said he expects the Y’s programs to serve up to 20% of locally eligible students, about 200 kids.

The Blaine County School District will supply transportation, meals and instructional coaches to lead staff through the new curricula, Shearer said. BCSD teachers will also nominate potential students who would benefit from the program.

College of Idaho Co-President Jim Everett said he was “thrilled” to have his teaching interns participate in the innovative partnership as mentors and instructors. He said he hopes this is a “pay it forward” opportunity that will draw some young students to the College of Idaho, perhaps to work in this program 10 years from now. The first step, he said, begins with successful mentoring this summer.

“Our students [interns] are bright, hardworking, energetic and committed to making the world a better place for all,” Everett said. “They come from all over the world, and they fully understand that education is the key to one’s future. They are not in a position to write checks, but they have intellectual capital to share. They will be great mentors, role model teachers for the students they serve. Being a mentor to someone is a leadership skill that will serve our students well in their future.”

Shearer said the YMCA initiated the new collaboration to address potential shortfalls in education due to the pandemic.

“Our students lost classroom time at the end of the last school year and this year they attended school only two days per week until recently,” he said. “We know that students who don’t read at grade level by the end of elementary school are unlikely to graduate from high school.”

For more information go to woodriverymca.org.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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