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Teachers 'excited' about extra week
JAMES WOODCOCK/Gazette Staff Poly Drive Elementary School librarian Robin Byford plans to use the extra five days of the school year for more in-depth study of her curriculum.

School District 2's elementary teachers say they intend to take full advantage of the five extra days added to the year.

Teachers contacted Wednesday talked enthusiastically about their ideas for the extended days. The district's Board of Trustees agreed Monday to add five days to the elementary school year as part of a settlement of two strike-related lawsuits.

Those days will run June 9-13 and will be mandatory for teachers but voluntary for students.

"I'm excited to have the days back," said Juline Kosmicki, third-grade teacher at Alkali Creek Elementary. "I'm hoping I can use them to reinforce and cover things that we didn't get to cover as well as we usually do."

With all of the skills testing complete by then, Kosmicki said she will determine where individual students need extra help.

"Depending upon how many students show up, it could be really helpful to the ones who do if they're the ones who are struggling," Kosmicki said.

She said teachers are already working on their lesson plans. What teachers aren't planning to do, she said, is spend the week showing videos and shelving studies.

"From a teacher's standpoint, if we just played it would be horrible," Kosmicki said. "I can't even imagine facing a week like that. I think more people are going to pack that week so full because that's how a teacher will enjoy the week."

Patrick Kenney, who teaches sixth-graders at Ponderosa Elementary, said the majority of students in his class are enthusiastic about that week.

"We do have some kids who are leaving," Kenney said. "If anything, I think those kids are sorry they're going to be missing things we'll be doing that week."

Kenney said his students are caught up in all subjects, but he intends to use the time to enrich their learning in areas such as algebra and science. They will also spend more time studying the Wright Brothers, which seems appropriate since the class built a plane this year.

Kenney said the days will also help the graduating sixth-graders sharpen their skills for next year.

"It's a real godsend because the more we can prepare them for middle school, the better it is," Kenney said.

Across town at Arrowhead Elementary, sixth-grade teacher Blake Forseth said she plans to go deeper into subjects such as physics and the environment.

"It's very definitely an extension of our curriculum," Forseth said. "I think the days will be valuable to the kids because we're going to get into some concepts that haven't been covered to this point."

Robin Byford, a librarian at Poly Drive Elementary, will encourage the second-graders she teaches to be poetic that week. Byford, who works with students in all grades, said she will continue the younger students' focus on poet Shel Silverstein.

From hearing Silverstein's poems, the students will start writing their own verses next week. She'll continue that in the final week of school and do other literature-based activities.

"I had to compact things and leave some things out this year, so this will allow us to pick up on those things we didn't get to," Byford said.

Byford said she knows some parents already have summer plans, and she understands that. She will forgo a previous commitment to stay at the school that last week.

"You don't always get another opportunity to teach," Byford said.

Mary Meyer, who teachers third grade at Bench Elementary, said she will stick to the basics that last week of school.

"Students have skills they're supposed to master before they go on to the next grade," Meyer said. "Some students may have passed the skills tests but don't have them really solid, so we'll work on that."

Meyer said her students will also focus on social studies mapping and they will get an extra helping of fractions and division with remainders.

"They will have a good week of education, I promise you that," Meyer said.

Florence Diede, librarian at Newman Elementary said she appreciates the opportunity to go more in-depth into subjects that sometimes get short shrift.

"I view this as an opportunity to enrich our students, to do the things we never have time to do in our classrooms in an extended way," Diede said.

Kosmicki and the others also said they don't view — and hope parents don't see — the days as punishment for the kids.

"I've never felt of school as punishment, and I never felt my students felt that either," Kosmicki said. "I think this is a great opportunity."

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