This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
WESTTOWN — During the school year, it may not always be easy for the students who do not speak English as their first language, either for themselves or with their family at home.
To help with that, the West Chester Area School District has the Jump Start Camp for these students.
The camp is funded by the Title III Supplemental Program, which gives supplemental funds for the Language Experience Approach to improve the education of immigrant children and youth and limited-English proficient students and to assist them in learning English.
“(We) have to decide where to spend that money best to help the students,” said Steve Werner, supervisor for the district’s English Language Learners Department. “One of the ways that we’re trying to close the achievement gap is programs like this.”
The problem these children face is that, with the consistent pace teachers have to have in the classrooms to cover their curriculum, there isn’t a lot of time for the students who struggle in the language to catch up.
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However, the Jump Start camp gives these student from incoming first grade through incoming sixth grade the help they may need, which also goes in conjunction with after-school activities for them as well during the school year.
“We do this so that there isn’t that big gap between what they’re doing in, say, August and what they’ve done three months later and in their previous year, especially for our families that are (English language learners),” Werner said.
The three-week camp ran through July and featured activities and topics such as yoga, music, Zumba, nature and art.
Its popularity has grown significantly, as last year’s camp had only about 25 students, while this summer had 170 come out.
Another big change was that the program went from being just half a day to an entire day, running from 8:45 a.m. until 2:45 p.m., and included in that is also lunch provided by the camp and transportation, all thanks to the funding from Title III.
The students spent their three weeks at Penn Wood Elementary School, though it is open and free to all the students from across the school district.
“They’re able to meet some kids who they’ll be friends with in middle school,” Werner said. “They can start building those relationships a little sooner.”