Students reach Academic Challenge goal

By Lynn R. Parks

Justin Ortiz, a fifth-grade student at Central Elementary School in Seaford, wasnt too excited about spending time during his spring break on school work.

But he wanted to have extra time to participate in the schools annual water day, when the school sets up water slides, a dunking booth and other games for children who have shown good behavior during the term. And the only way that he could do that was to earn at least 26 points in the schools Superstar Academic Challenge, held during its two-week spring break.

By the end of the break, Justin had earned more than 41 points, enough not only for a great water day but to get his name and picture in the newspaper as well.

As for all that studying  It wasnt as bad as I thought it would be, he admitted.

The Academic Challenge, during which children worked on activities at home or in other locations with which the school partnered, replaced the in-school intersessions that Central has held since it adopted a balanced calendar in 2005. The intersessions were originally designed as enrichment periods to be held between the schools nine-week teaching sessions. Students could opt to attend school to study subjects they didnt normally study, or go get extra help in subjects in which they were struggling.

But principal Jeff Forjan said that as the districts budget has become increasingly tight, money for intersessions has gone away.

This year, Central was able to offer only two intersessions. The first one, in the fall, cost around $10,000 and had 180 students attending. Then, with funding shrinking even more, we had to get creative, Forjan said. The idea of a virtual intersession was born.

Academic Challenge was designed by Jim White, the district technology integration specialist, as well as by Forjan, associate principal Chandra Phillips, teachers Courtney White, Carol Miller and Billy Whitaker and staff development teacher, Julie Hanenfeld. Students could read or participate in an activity at the Seaford District Library. They could also do computer work at home or at the library, the Boys and Girls Club or the community enrichment center at the Chandler Heights Apartments complex.

More than 250 of the schools 465 students signed up to participate in the program and 195 completed it. Justin was among 75 students who earned enough points during the intersession to qualify for the highest award.

Cost to the school for the virtual intersession was $7 per student, or about $1,750.

Jim White said that the activities that were offered through Academic Challenge were designed by the teachers to go along with what students were learning in classrooms. About half of the activities had to be completed on the computer and the other half consisted of reading books or writing about what students had read. Students had options in what activities they wanted to complete.

First grader Drake Mitchell was one of the students who accumulated enough points to achieve the platinum level. A lot of what I did was kind of fun, he said.

His mom, Nicole Moore, said that she enjoyed watching Drake when he was doing the Academic Challenge computer work. I got to see a little bit more of what he does in school, she said.

White is in the process of designing another virtual session, for Central students to do this summer. If it works, he said, the district may opt to make the sessions available for students in the other three elementary schools, he said.

There is a lot of data to indicate that this kind of activity is effective, White said. While the school has not yet been able to compare how students who participated in the Academic Challenge do in regular classroom sessions and on state tests versus how students who didnt participate in it did, anecdotal evidence indicates that they may do better. Teachers have told me that theyve noticed a huge difference when students came back from break, between the children who did the Academic Challenge and the children who didnt, he said.

Thats exactly what twins Hailey and Hannah Lamenza, both of whom earned more than 41 points, wanted. I did the Academic Challenge so that I can reach up to the highest level, Hailey said.

I wanted to do it so that when I came back to school, Id be smarter, Hannah added.

Mission accomplished

Seventy-five students accumulated more than 41 points in Central Elementary Schools Superstar Academic Challenge, held during the schools two-week spring break. Their prize: getting their name and picture in the Seaford Star. The students are:

Kindergarten - Cruz Bennet, Carter Cummings, Vincent Evans, Savannah Hartman, Gage Hillman, Julia Horseman, Jesse Jean-Louis, Emily Matthews, Madison McFarland, Ethan Medley, Ashley Mendez-Vargas, Luke Metzner, Jhani Smith, Brianna Walker and Emmett Wheatley.

First grade  Keane Adams, Aiyanna Bennett, Sadie Blaine, Jordyn Evans, Ivy Genshaw, Kamari Houchens, Kemariya Houchens, Jenica Jean-Louis, Graci King, Cyonna Knowles, Jessie Lewin, Izac McCabe, Natalie McFarland, Autumn Metz, Drake Mitchell, Christen Mullen, Meghan Pusey, YaMere Ross, Priyanka Steele, Gary Smith, Landon Sockriter, Caroline Spicer, Danae Weldon-Goslee, Scarlet Wheatley and Will Wells.

Second grade  Ryan Amidon, Kyla Arthur, Cole Baldwin, Ethan Bennett, Lily Bowe, Reagan Clark, Zaira Collins, Gabrielle Horseman, Marlie Janvier, Delaney Larrimore, Justin Ramsingh, Alyssa Taylor, Zoe Tyndall and Katelyn Williams.

Third grade  Samuel Cummings, Ava Dunn, Makayla Jeandell, Leena Maharaj, Delaney Parker, Madeline Tricarico and Breydon Wright.

Fourth grade  William Blaine, Lily Cutchin, Abby Fowler, Potensky Jean-Louis, Gabriella Parker, Maria Suarez Par, Enricho Tajon, Danna Mandez-Vargas and Torian Reaffer.

Fifth grade  Jada Evans, Nyrlande Flechier, Hailey Lamenza, Justin Ross Ortiz and Hannah Lamenza.

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