Grant to help students move into sixth grade

PORT TOWNSEND – A $15,000 grant will help fund a program aimed at helping fifth grade students make a smooth transition into sixth grade.

Kids Come First, a program of the state Department of Social and Health Services, has provided the grant to Kids Are First, a joint effort of the Jefferson County Family YMCA and the Port Townsend School District.

Kids Are First will take shape as two week-long workshops, beginning in late July.

This is the first year of this program.

“We’re hoping that the success will carry over to their first week of school,” said Bill Kush, director of the Jefferson County YMCA, after the grant award was announced last week.

The participants will be identified by several different criteria, including scores on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests, or WASL tests, their grades, and socioeconomic and family status.

Eligible students who choose to participate will spend one week in a summer workshop.

Mark Decker, Blue Heron Elementary principal, said that the transition from fifth to sixth grade is especially important, because it is thought that it is at this point that some students begin to lose interest in school.

“Our goal is to assist students who are on that bubble,” Decker said.

A certified teacher will work in the mornings with students on an individual basis to improve academic skills, while a recreation specialist will take them to various activities in the afternoons.

The recreation component serves three functions, said Kush.

It acts as an incentive for attendance and cooperative behavior, it’s an opportunity to interact and provide positive activities and it’s a means of developing such skills as self-management, cooperation and problem-solving.

The students who participate in the program will be tracked throughout the year, and into subsequent years, Decker said.

WASL test scores, grades, non-academic activities and discipline referrals will be monitored to evaluate the success of the program.

Decker said the idea for the program came from the Blue Heron Middle School site council.

“The ultimate goal is to help students successfully complete high school,” Decker said.

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