Extended School Year - Special in So Many Ways

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South Huntington’s Extended School Year (ESY) Summer Special Education Program is a fantastic opportunity for students with special needs to work on improving all aspects of student and community life. This summer at Countrywood Primary Center, students of all ages worked together in their classrooms and participated in a special vocational component for the high school students. “Going Green, Keeping Our Environment Clean” was this summer’s theme. The students participated in activities in a variety of areas, including art, music and physical education. The “Countrywood Cafe” was an especially heart-warming place of learning and socialization as special education students from the high school took on the challenge of serving lunch to all of their classmates each and every day. Students used play money to pay for their food and were asked to submit comments to the suggestion boxes throughout the lunchroom. The older student workers were especially nurturing to their younger peers, creating many memorable moments for students and staff alike.

In the classroom, students used recycled materials to create a ‘Trash to Treasure Museum” and proudly displayed their works of art for all to enjoy. As the ESY program came to a close, students and staff treated the parents and the community to a morning of music, song, and readings. The activities concluded with a gala lunch prepared and served by our students with help from the special education staff. 

“This heartwarming program brought smiles to the faces of all involved and served as powerful evidence of our district's instructional creativity,” said Superintendent Bennardo in his weekly newsletter. “Thanks to Assistant Superintendent Jacci Harris for nurturing such a dedicated team. Thanks, as well, to Roberto Toledo, Shari Daniello, and all of our special educators for working so hard with our ESY program.  Special thanks also to cafeteria supervisor Diane Rice, for contributing so much to the Countrywood Cafe.”

Some of the staff who were an integral part of the program’s success shared their thoughts:

  • “I’m very proud of our teens, who came to work every day with smiles on their faces ready to work and make a difference in the lives of our students.” --Jenn DeNoble, Behavior Specialist, Maplewood Intermediate School
  • “It’s great to see the students each summer and witness the progress they make over the school year. It is truly remarkable.” --Penny Morris, Speech Pathologist
  • “I’m so inspired when I see how the students volunteer to assist each other in serving the food, managing the cash register, and cooperating with the cleanup. They showed kindness, patience, and caring for all of the students.” --Diane Rice, Head Cook, Countrywood Primary Center.
  • “The incentive program that helps promote the three main school values— being safe, respectful, and responsible—has been a great success. The students accumulate tickets for being ‘caught’ exhibiting safe, respectful, and responsible behavior. They can then use their tickets to earn prizes. It’s fun and motivating for them.” --Dana Reoch, School Psychologist
  • “This program has given me a new understanding for teachers. It showed how much patience they need to have under any circumstance.” –Sade, Project Excel Summer Intern
  • “’Uplifting’ is the best word to describe the experience of spending six weeks of the summer emerged in the ESY program. Each day consisted of exciting thematic classroom activities as well as opportunities to socialize in the cafeteria.”  --Sue Cirillo, Teacher, Group,1 Kindergarten
  • “If you were to walk into any classroom in the ESY program, you would find students, teachers, paras, and student workers cooperating to help build upon all of the skills taught throughout the school year, in addition to learning new concepts, themes, and expectations.” --Kara McClosky,  Music Teacher
  • “The art lessons incorporated weekly themes as well as literacy through books and writing. Art classes made learning exciting and reinforced concepts taught in the classroom. The students are also afforded the opportunity to work on their occupational therapy goals as well as fine motor skills.” --Dana Belfiore, Art Teacher
  • “The summer Physical Education Program provided opportunities for students with special needs to improve basic motor movements and work on important values such as leadership, teamwork, and cooperation.” --Erin Barrett, Physical Education Teacher