At Catskill Academy, teacher Jacqueline DeWitt works with a student on a science project.

Summer is often a time during which students can regress in their academic growth made during the previous school year. This regression has come to be affectionately called the “Summer Slide”. While this is often easily remedied by keeping a reading schedule over the summer, continuing to practice skills with workbooks or other exercises or engaging in some of the dozens of available summer academic activities, for students with special needs, the “Summer Slide” can be even more devastating – going beyond academics and including behavioral coping strategies.

Questar III’s Extended School Year, our summer program for special education, aims to avoid this slide by offering students with special needs a supportive, flexible educational environment for six weeks each summer. Like the regular school year, the summer program provides crucial services to ensure students can continue moving forward in September – rather than having to play catch-up to overcome the regression that occurred during the summer.

This year, we are running Extended School Year programs at Rensselaer Academy/Rensselaer City School District, The Academy at Rensselaer Educational Center, Catskill Academy, and George Washington School. Our 252 students range from kindergarten through 12th grade and come from 33 component and non-component districts.

“Students who attend summer program have a variety of needs including academic, behavioral and social. The school structure provides continuity of services to assist students with maintaining skills over the summer. Additionally, while the routine at school is important for students, staff plan engaging fun filled activities to bring more excitement to each day,” said Kimberly Rockenstyre, Questar III’s Interim Director of Special Education.

This work of course includes academics – classes spend time each day working on English Language Arts, Math, Science and Reading, but pairs that with the emotional and behavioral support the students need, just like during the school year. Our staff recognizes that preventing an academic drop is important, but equally important is ensuring students don’t lose the progress they’ve made socially, behaviorally and emotionally.

This underscores the need for the summer program to be more than a “fun day camp” for students. While there are of course fun activities and flexibility built-in to the daily schedule, the priority is continuing to engage students academically and emotionally. We hope this focus allows for continued growth during the summer, so when they arrive back at school in September, both the students and the staff are ready for another productive year of learning and growth.

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