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Extended school year launches students toward success

Nearly a quarter of St. Vrain students participating in Project Launch
Mountain View Elementary School

Some St. Vrain Valley School District students have kicked off the summer strengthening their reading and math skills.

This summer’s Project Launch is the third year of the extended school year program meant to help students improve grade level skills. On Thursday morning at Mountain View Elementary School, Haydn Crouse was teaching a classroom of 14 soon-to-be third grade students as part of Project Launch.

“We’re definitely seeing a lot of progress, which is wonderful,” Crouse said. “We have certain skills that we’ve been working on per grade level.”

Assistant Superintendent of Priority Programs and Academic Support Diane Lauer said that roughly 2,300 students entering first through fifth grade and 900 entering sixth through eighth are participating in Project Launch — about one in four St. Vrain students.

Families with students that could directly benefit from the extended school year are offered the program in the spring before it opens up to all students. Lauer explained that the district wants to make sure Project Launch, which focuses heavily on reading skills, is the right fit for the students participating.

At the elementary level, three hours a day are spent on literacy, one hour on math and the remaining three hours are split between STEM, physical education and art activities. At the middle school level, two hours each are spent on reading and math with the last hour for other topics.

Classes are through the month of June and include opportunities for parent engagement.

“Their parents see it as something they want to engage in,” Crouse said. “Students, I think, enjoy being here. It’s just a really enjoyable thing. I’m happy that I did it.”

Lauer explained that the program is driven by numbers, with students taking pre- and post- evaluations to track their progress.

“We decided to really make it a much more robust program for students to increase the likelihood that they would, one, launch into the next school year successfully and seamlessly and, two, really ensure that the program is data driven,” Lauer said.

The data from the previous two summers has also shown that students making gains from Project Launch keep those in the following school year. Lauer said that the program helps combat the loss of learning that can happen over the summer break, known as the summer slide.

“When you take a look around the world, in most countries their school calendar is more than 174 days,” Lauer said. “So this is our way of really providing our students with that strong competitive advantage. We want our students to have a real strong foundation in academics.”

Along with the academic focus, students are able to make new friends and get excited about their summer learning.

“It’s an amazing way for us to bring our students together for a month and integrate academics and really fun and engaging activities in order to continue to help them learn throughout the summer as well,” Crouse said.

Lauer said that the district has every intention of continuing Project Launch into the future, with grant applications currently underway. With nearly 400 staff members working the additional month to provide for the community, Lauer added that she’s proud to be a part of this young program.

“It’s incredibly unique,” Lauer said. “I don’t know of another district that is providing an extended year to this magnitude or this level of comprehensiveness.”