Summer program aims to help Encinitas EL students

The specific skills and interest of some key Encinitas Union School District officials combined with a dash of federal funding has resulted in the reemergence of a vital program for the district’s English Language Learners (EL).

The EL Summer Intervention Program is serving nearly 120 kids in grades 1-6 this month at Paul Ecke Central Elementary. There are about 500 EL students in the EUSD, which is about 10 percent of the student population.

Summer Intervention is one of several EUSD programs aimed to help an EL population that has decreased in the past few decades, but should not be overlooked, says trustee Patricia Sinay.

“As an immigrant from Mexico, born to a Peruvian mom and an Argentine dad, I was an English Learner when I started kindergarten. Looking back to those early school years, I now, as an educator, better understand what my challenges were and how my teachers and schools missed so many opportunities to improve my learning,” Sinay explained. “In a district like ours that is very successful, it could be easy for EL and other students with unique challenges to be overlooked. I chose to be on the school board to ensure that all students had equal access to achieve to the best of their ability.

“In Encinitas, we have parents who care, teachers and administrators who excel, and resources to invest to make it possible for all students to enjoy learning and strive for success.”

One of those administrators is Isabel Silva, the Coordinator of Curriculum and Accountability Educational Services, who was able to push the EL Summer program over the final hurdles. Silva, who came to EUSD before the school year, was uniquely qualified to help make the program happen after running and organizing similar programs as part of her previous job in Solana Beach.

“They haven’t had a summer program in about eight years because of funding,” Silva said. “We now have a few federal dollars … and it was decided by our leadership team — our school principals, our management in different departments and our school board — to provide this experience once again to all of our English Learner families … so that they can continue to build their academic skills in addition to their language proficiency.”

Those dollars came from a Title III grant, which provides funding for EL specific programs. That funding has allowed for nine teachers from all over the district, each of whom has a small class size of 12-16 students. In each class, time is spent on an English Language Development curriculum, a software program that is used regularly during the school year as well and then concentrated, targeted instruction in reading and writing.

“When you have 12 kids, your availability (as a teacher) to personalize instruction is greater,” Silva said. “Many of these students not only have deficiencies and gaps in language development, but because of that, are grade levels behind in reading or writing. That’s why this program is really helpful for them.”

The EL Summer Intervention staff also includes a general education resource teacher, who can support the other nine teachers in many different ways, including the always crucial tech support. In addition, the program has its own principal, an office manager and a devoted custodian.

Another program through which EUSD helps its low-income families, many of which have kids that fall into the EL category, is Connect2Compete. For this program, the district is working alongside Cox Communications, and some other service providers, to provide Wifi service to these families at the discounted rate of $10 per month. In addition, these families are given a refurbished desktop computer for free.

After 100 families received the discounted rate and computer last year, 58 more were hooked up in June. This is an ongoing effort, however, as there are some 275 families that have reported that they aren’t able to get Wifi service through Cox. The district is working with Time Warner and AT&T to see if those gaps can be filled.

“We are a one-to-one program district, so all of our kids K-6 have iPads. The only unfortunate thing is everyone doesn’t have service at home,” Silva said. “So we want to make sure everyone gets that opportunity.”