Laurel School District Superintendent John Ewald with students participating in a summer learning program for kindergartners and first graders, offered in partnership with the Delaware Academy for School Leadership.

Getting a jump start

DASL helps elementary school obtain a grant for summer learning


9:57 a.m., Aug. 23, 2013--Every Thursday afternoon for the past eight weeks more than 40 parents in Laurel, Del., have been spending quality time with their kids. Not at the pool, not at the beach, but at Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary School.  

This summer, the Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL), a professional development and policy center in UD’s College of Education and Human Development, partnered with the Laurel School District for a summer program funded by the Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant.  Dedicated teachers and paraprofessionals spent most of their summer vacation in the classroom helping students prepare for the 2013-14 school year. The program provided daily academic instruction for 85 incoming kindergarteners and first graders at Dunbar Elementary School. 

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DASL works with local school districts to facilitate DOE grants that fund innovative programs. “It is one of our priorities,” said Jackie Wilson, DASL’s executive director. “We were pleased to not only write this successful grant, but also provide support staff to administer the program. DASL associates Alison Dubinski and Katie Dumas played a key role, working with teachers, the principal and parents to offer this extra learning time program for children.” 

As part of the grant’s goal to increase school connectedness, parents/caregivers were invited to the school for weekly sessions. Using fun, interactive lesson plans, family members practiced key skills with their children and their teachers. They used magnetic letters to practice sight words and practiced making numbers using pennies. A local taekwondo center also provided an interactive session, demonstrating the benefits of staying active.  

At the end of each session, the parents and students were given materials to continue working on the skills at home. 

“This was a great opportunity for our students,” said John Ewald, Laurel School District superintendent. “The 21st Century Learning Grant provided our youngest learners a ‘jump start’ on their learning for the year. Additionally, we fostered a strong partnership with DASL and obtained great resources for our parents and community. We look forward to the educational opportunities this grant and partnership will continue to provide our students in the years ahead.”

More than 200 people attended celebration on Aug. 8, recognizing the hard work and dedication the students, teachers and families had shown over the course of the summer.  

The program concluded with Ewald and the program staff recognizing each student and parent who achieved perfect attendance followed by a celebratory barbecue lunch.  

DASL and Laurel School District representatives said they hope that the combined efforts of teachers, parents, administrators and UD staff will lead to a stronger home-school connection and increased achievement for these students as they begin their academic careers.   

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