By Kim Derrenbacher
DANSVILLE- Covid-19 brought a lot of changes to Dansville Central Schools--some good and some that took some adjusting to.
One of the hidden gems of those changes is the Academic Support & Activities Program (ASAP) program at GCC. The purpose of ASAP is to provide academic assistance to children on days that they are not attending school in person and offer activities to promote creativity and exercise while we ensure a safe and healthy environment.
About 45-50 students in grades 4PK-6 are currently enrolled in the program. Cohort A students attend Thursdays and Fridays and Cohort B attend Mondays and Tuesdays from 8am to 2:30pm. Wednesdays are alternated between the two cohorts.
Patrick Chierichella, GV BOCES Principal, is the program administrator. Chierichella praised the talent of the staff members who work with the ASAP students. He is excited by their autonomy and their ownership of their classrooms. He offers assistance and support but encourages them to try new things. He says to "try it" and if it doesn't work, try something new. He appreciates that staff are bringing their unique talents to the program and that every child can benefit from these new ideas. Chierichella said that the program stresses enrichment and academics, and that all students are getting academic assistance.
Asked what he thinks is the indicator of the success of the program, he replied that parents have been communicating with him and staff and that everyone is extremely pleased.
Staff are assigned to one of the 13 classrooms. For instance, Mrs. Judi Wadsworth has a class of seven first-graders, and Mrs. Melanie Moulthroup is with a group of three kindergartners. Both Wadsworth and Moulthroup have worked with their DPS classroom teachers for several years, so they know the rhythm of the classroom and what skills students are working on during this time of the year. Wadsworth said that in addition to the asynchronous work assigned by the classroom teacher, she has a class schedule in her room that will work on site words and math skills each day with her students. These activities help reinforce what they have been learning in the classroom. ASAP helps support working families by staff helping students complete their work at the program.
Children are engaged in all kinds of activities including theater and movies in the auditorium, arts and crafts, organized physical activities, storytelling, short walks and outdoor play. Chierichella has a team of BOCES professionals who come to the program periodically to provide additional enrichment activities. For example, physical education teachers from BOCES provide structured activities for the kids each day either in the gym or outside.
Classroom staff said they like the flexibility of the program. With an average of three students in her classroom, Moulthroup said that if the kids are getting restless she can change the rhythm of the day by getting the kids up and moving inside or outside incorporating interactive activity.
Opportunities are provided throughout the day to "unwind." The auditorium is used as a place to watch a movie, do sing-alongs or other activities. Science projects are also conducted in classrooms. Students inMrs. Sleight's room made volcanoes and were able to watch their volcanoes "erupt" and then went outside to engage in the activity. Kids love doing art projects and classroom staff are always on the lookout for supplies and ideas.
In an ideal time it would be wonderful to invite the public to come in and offer enrichments to students. However COVID-19 has restricted outside visitors. Chierichella said that he would love to entertain creative solutions. Staff also would like to see creative interaction. The 7-12 DHS Honors Academy is exploring the idea of having Google Meets set up with high school students reading stories to the kids.
Dansville Primary School reading teacher Kristen Palotti said, "It has been great to see this program come together to provide balance and continuity between the in-person instruction on campus and support when students can't be directly with their classroom teacher. Despite the challenging schedule with our hybrid model where kids are only in person with their classroom teacher for two days a week, teacher aides from the program are checking in with us, asking us for specific guidance to help our students and are reinforcing the skills that we are working on when the kids are with us. In just one week, I have noticed that the students that I work with made progress. I'm sure this is because we are being consistent, working together, and providing extra time for reinforcement of skills to make sure that the kids are getting what they need to make progress."
When asked for comment, Chuck Malone, first grade teacher said, "We are so excited to have our students continue their learning at the ASAP program. The staff at ASAP have been amazing! It's been wonderful having a place in our district where students can do authentic reading, writing and math activities on the days when they can't be in school. Our students at ASAP have completed all of their online learning assignments as well as learning high frequency words, math facts and more. We are thankful for their support along with the families who all have shown such dedication to improving our students' learning during these unprecedented times."
Dansville Superintendent Dr. Paul Alioto said that they will begin taking applications for additional students and considering opening ASAP to 7th graders. Parents who are interested should contact Sonya Carusa at (585) 335-4000 extension 2307.
Alioto said, “We are fortunate to have available space at the former middle school building and pleased to be able to offer ASAP to children and families. We have creative and committed people working in the program and they are doing a fantastic job."