By Mike James - CNHI News Service
Feb. 5, 2014 —
The halls and classrooms at Tygarts Creek Elementary School are almost empty on snow days — but not quite.
On Wednesday, a small group of children gathered in the corner reading nook of the library, where a parent volunteer read them a funny story.
In a nearby classroom, a math intervention teacher tutored children in arithmetic.
Small groups in another classroom did arts and crafts and played bingo to develop their vocabulary.
Tygarts Creek keeps its doors open on snow days and any of its students are welcome to spend the day and take advantage of tutoring, test preparation and other educational activities.
The atmosphere is decidedly informal; parents drop off their children when it’s convenient and the kids may stay all day or just for a couple of hours.
The kids eat lunch, not at a set time but whenever the consensus is that everyone is hungry.
The staff encourages parents to pack lunches, but no one goes hungry. Some of the parent volunteers have been bringing food paid for from their own pockets just in case a kid arrives without lunch.
There are some recreational activities but just about everything has an educational component.
“One thing we want to emphasize is that this is not day care,” said David Gee, coordinator of the school’s family resource center. Rather, the day is focused on education, with an emphasis on hands-on activities.
It started with a proposal to use the snow-day down time for limited tutoring, and the staff enthusiasm was such that it morphed into an all-day offering. Tutoring remains a part of it, as do test-prep sessions for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, with topics such as multiple choice strategies and stress relief.
On Wednesday there were several regular school staffers plus parents; every one was a volunteer, said curriculum coach Leigh Williams. For faculty, since it is a snow day it doesn’t count against their yearly contract so they don’t get paid.
Children who spend their snow day at school get a jump start over their classmates when school resumes, math intervention teacher Jackie Rayburn said. “There’s a benefit in one on one instruction and small groups. And so many times when children are out of school there is a tendency to regress.”
Since Tygarts Creek opened, replacing the much smaller Upper Tygart Elementary, its staff has tried to maintain its small-school atmosphere, Williams said. “We’re great believers in community, so this is one thing we have tried to do. A good thing about a small school is making students feel safe and comfortable.
“We think programs like this will create those life-long learners.”
MIKE JAMES can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2652.