Sparta — Keeping kids on track is the name of the game for the Jumpstart program at Appleview Elementary.
The program, which wrapped up recently, offers kindergarten through fifth-grade students a chance to start off the school year on the best note possible.
“It’s to help fill any learning loss from the summer,” said Appleview Principal Mike Birely. “It’s for our kids who struggle academically, to help fill the gaps and make them feel confident as they get started with the school year.”
Birely said the invitation-only program has been around for at least 20 years. It’s been successful in giving kids a strong start to the school year, particularly with respect to math and literacy.
Sparta Superintendent Joel Stoner said the program doesn’t just benefit kids in need of extra help — it serves their classmates, who can hit the ground running without teachers having to backtrack at the start of the year.
Stoner said Jumpstart is a “teacher-run, teacher-planned and teacher-led” initiative.
Priming Students for Success
First-grade teacher Alexa Andresen recently worked with small groups of kindergarteners who will soon take the big leap into first grade, switching off periodically between math- and reading-focused lessons.
“We’re getting them ready,” she said. “We work on things like letter sounds; we work on things like counting to 100. We’re working on building CVC words — which would be consonant, vowel, consonant — and just kind of prepping them to get them ready to get back into the school year.”
Andresen said the hope is that the program will give the students the skills their future teachers will expect.
The teachers’ support of Jumpstart was clear, from their methodical transitions from one lesson to the next, to their patience and care with each student.
“This is an amazing program,” said Emily Metzger, a third- through fifth-grade teacher with the Great Start Readiness Program.
Metzger normally works with 4-year-olds at the Sparta Early Childhood Center. She said she’s thrilled to help out at Appleview, where she can see some of her former students make strides.
“That just makes it even better, to see how far they’ve come,” she said.
In a third-grade classroom, students sharpened their fractions skills using graphics of ice cream cones, and wrote their own stories about how to be a good friend, said teaching assistant Kayleigh Bisel.
The Jumpstart program has been “very successful” in combating the “summer slide”: a tendency among some students to lose touch with curriculum during summer break, Stoner said.
‘It’s for our kids who struggle academically, to help fill the gaps and make them feel confident as they get started with the school year.’— Appleview Principal Mike Birely
Stoner said Jumpstart also helps kids get reacclimated to the structure of a school day prior to the official start of the school year.