A new “take” on summer school has teams of Early Childhood teachers literally driving door to door to deliver school supplies for at-home lessons June 2-July 3.
But first they had to plan for every single thing each student would need, get the grant to pay for all this, and learn about “door drops” at the students’ homes.
ECC Director Susana Alejandro said there are 77 children enrolled in this program, and five teams of two teachers each, doing the driving and deliveries to students’ front doors.
“Sometimes it takes them four hours to do their entire routes,” she said.
What they hope for is face-to-face smiling conversations with the pre-kindergarten students and their parent(s) or caretakers on their front porches or yards, while delivering the bags with lesson plans and supplies, and activities listed.
“The hardest thing for the teachers is, the students all want hugs, too,” Alejandro said.
“This is all being done by 12 people,” she said. “Part of this is a health and wellness check, so we get ‘eyes on the kids’ and make sure they are okay.”
This is a “blended program” funded by a $70,000 grant from Headstart, a combination of virtual learning on the iPads provided to each student, and the “door drops” on Mondays, Wednesday and Friday mornings.
The goal is to provide this summer school to make sure these youngsters are “kindergarten-ready” in August, despite the COVID-19 school closures March-May.
Alejandro said it sounds like a lot of money, and Headstart was generous. But it pays salaries and mileage for the teachers doing the planning, videos and deliveries, in addition to the materials.
And because these children all qualified for ECC Pre-K based on low income and family situations, they started by assuming the children didn’t have any of the materials needed for the lessons and activities. So they are sending everything that’s needed.
That includes crayons and markers, small packages of Legos, decks of cards for math games, tambourines for music, books, paper bags, beads and yarn, floaties for the pool (to learn about breathing), mini-erasers, seashells, goldfish crackers and small plastic bowls, small clay pots, finger cymbals, jump ropes and food items for cooking lessons.
The staff also hand-made enough crafting clay “play-dough” to give each student a portion for a lesson.
Alejandro laughed about how much shopping they’ve done – much of it online – to get 87 of everything.
“We’re big customers now of Lowe’s and Amazon and Oriental Trading and other places; and we’ve driven as far as Boerne to get the last hula-hoops we needed for a kids’ project,” she said. “They probably thought we were crazy, but you just can’t get 80-plus of most things in one place.”
For exercise and dancing, they provide “manipulatives.” If the class online includes Frisbees, everyone gets one.
The general schedule has been “Messy Mondays” for art; “Toe-Tappin’ Tuesdays” for music; “Work-Out Wednesdays;” “Thinking Thursdays” for science and STEM; and “Foodie Fridays” for cooking.
Last Friday the food lesson was baking an apple with butter and cinnamon, and the bag of supplies included an apple and a small ziplock bag with the spice and butter in it.
They promise the kids math, literacy, storytime and crafting daily.
The card decks were for five math games the teachers invented, some the youngsters could play alone and some with a partner.
On the virtual program “Seesaw,” parents can post pictures or videos of their children doing the activities.
Teachers and staff planning and delivering these lessons include Crystal Witt, Monica Guzman, Tracy Walker, Caroline Williams, Cassy Robinett, Luisa Molina, Lupita Garcia, Suzie Ross, Kimberlee Sileria, Leslie Gongoria and Paige Carlisle.
JoAnn Hagemeier has been in charge of the “Foodie Friday” videos.
“We wrote the grant for this after the second week of April, and the paperwork was due May 15. Most schools opted out of summer school, but we worked on it intensely for three weeks because we were worried about the kids’ kindergarten-readiness skills,” Alejandro said. “We started deliveries the first Tuesday in June; since then the schedule has been Monday, Wednesday and Friday ‘door drops’.”
She said even with virtual learning with parents, the students and teachers have been without person-to-person contact. And everything for this age of students is hands-on, she said, including learning the “tri-pod grip” to be able to grip a pencil to write and draw.
Last Friday, Witt and Guzman provided a “ride-along” for part of their lengthy route, with lesson bags stacked in a tub on the back seat of the car.
They said all children in this program qualify partly on low income and other family factors. Some live with single parents or grandparents, or have caretakers during the day.
They may live in smaller houses or mobile homes, or in larger nice homes where two or three families are sharing the space, they said. Driving their route east through Kerrville and then south to far ends of Ranchero Road, has been an eye-opening experience, they said.
They’ve learned a lot about Googling addresses and routes; and one calls ahead with a 10-15-minute lead to each house, to tell the adult(s) they are coming.
“Everything they need should be in each packet,” Guzman said. “The district provided ‘hotspots’ and iPads, but some text message and send pictures of the kids’ finished projects.”
Witt said the youngsters feel comfortable coming to them.
“We’re trying to close the gap from the pandemic, and give them a little extra help before they go to kindergarten,” Witt said.
Important note for parents
Alejandro said because of school closures, they cannot have their usual face-to-face enrollment, the “Pre-K Roundup” for the 2020-21 school year.
So parents need to call the ECC office for the open enrollment for next year.
She emphasized families with pre-K students in August should ask about meeting the criteria for this program, even if they live outside the usual Kerrville ISD boundaries.
Alejandro’s office at the ECC is at 1011 Third St., Kerrville. The phone number is 257-1335, extension 1910. She can be emailed at Susana.firstname.lastname@example.org.