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Students volunteer for longer school days

POSTED February 26, 2010 8:29 p.m.
People often say that there isn’t enough time in the day, and for teachers that is true. With a typical school day lasting around six hours, there simply isn’t enough time for students to fully understand language arts, math, history and science.  
With this in mind, teachers from Wakefield Elementary became inspired in 2006 from a school down in Poway to help their students become more successful. The program that Wakefield teachers brought from the shores of the San Diego area to the Central Valley is known as the Wakefield Scholar Program.
Through the Wakefield Scholar Program, students start the school year two weeks earlier than the rest of the district and they stay in school an extra hour every day.
This program started two years ago in Turlock and it is currently only offered to fifth and sixth grade students “who want to better themselves in school,” said Tracy Williamson, fifth grade teacher at Wakefield.
“Having one hour extra is helping me get a better education,” said Gisselle Ortiz, 5th grade student in the Scholar Program. “We are getting extra time to do more things.”
Currently, there are only three available classes for the Scholars Program — one fifth grade class and two sixth grade classes, each made up of 25 students.
Wakefield is hoping to expand the program to the fourth grade classes soon, said Aaron Mello, Wakefield Elementary principal.
There are no requirements for students to enter into the class, they just have to sign a contract, along with their parents and their teacher, for that program. The contract emphasizes the parent and student support needed to succeed, and has them make a commitment to the program.
During the extra hour that scholar students volunteer to take on, they go more in-depth into the material they are learning, Williamson said. Scholar students learn the same material as students in regular classes. There is just more time for them to learn.
The extra two weeks and hour every day in the Scholars Program allows the teachers to teach all four subjects every single day, said Chris Alonso, sixth grade Wakefield teacher. It also allows the teachers to bring some art, poetry and extra physical education into the classroom.
Through the scholars programs, not only have the teachers noticed an improvement in grades but the students are also excited about their new and improved report cards.
“In fourth grade I used to get threes on my report card and now I am getting fours and fives,” said Chris Costilla, a fifth grader in the program. “I have extra time to work on my education now.”
The program has also made students want to be at school, instead of feeling like they have to come to school every day, Williamson said.
“I am finding school more interesting now,” Ortiz said. “I want to be in the Scholar Program for sixth grade now because I want to stay at school longer.”
For more information about the Wakefield Scholars Program, contact the school office at 667-0895.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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