Favorite summer stories of Chloe McCallum, 7, include tales of frogs and marine life. While peers are splashing at the pool or playing video games, she's in school getting ready for the next year.
The North Augusta Elementary School Jump Start program gives Chloe and other pupils intensive reading and math lessons during the summer so they don't fall behind peers during the break.
"We're keeping instruction alive," instructor Nan Burns said. "Any child, regardless of ability level, can benefit from this."
The four-hour daily sessions acquaint rising kindergartners with sounds and letters, and they have older pupils writing their own stories. The program's length varies from seven to 12 days.
In its fifth year, Jump Start has grown to accommodate about 100 pupils. With 13 instructors, smaller classes allow teachers to accomplish more in four hours than many could in a traditional school day.
"Those interruptions, like recess and related arts, aren't there," Debra Kurilla said.
Teachers also aim to make the four hours unlike anything in a traditional school day. New books are presented to the pupils, giving them a fresh start, and many activities are turned into games.
"You read a lot more here," Chloe said. "But I'm learning how to read."
Each night pupils take home at least two books. As an incentive, the summer reading goes toward their reading goals for the next school year. When they start classes in August, many of them will already have credit for reading at least 20 books.
The free program is open to any pupil, but those with a greater need for intensive instruction are identified from test scores throughout the year. This year there was about a 90 percent participation rate among those identified, Principal Angela Burkhalter said.
In years past, she said, teachers could only track progress by working with the pupils. Now they can track pupils with daily computer testing.
"We pre-and post-test on their instruction level," Dr. Burkhalter said. "This will be the first time we'll have that measure instead of just observing, so I'm interested to see where we stand at the end of the summer."
Other Aiken County elementary schools offer similar summer programs, but availability should be checked with the principal.
Richmond County also offers summer school for pupils in third, fifth and eighth grade who scored a level 1 on standardized testing this year.
Columbia County schools do not have a similar program.
Reach Julia Sellers at (706) 823-3424 or firstname.lastname@example.org