Extended school day program helps students

by Claudia Loucks correspondent
Sarah Boone, left, principal at Millikin Grade School in Geneseo; Alyssa Gentry and Abby Gentry, Geneseo High School students involved in the Extended School Day program at Millikin, discuss resources to be used with students

This interview was done with Millikin principal Sarah Boone, prior to the Geneseo School Board’s decision to return to four-days a week in-person learning beginning Monday, March 8. In addition to Millikin, both Northside and Southwest grade schools also have implemented programs to help support students during this unusual school year.

The Extended School Day (ESD) program is a win-win effort for students, parents and staff in the Geneseo School District.

Covid-19 guidelines, including remote learning, made it difficult for some students.

Sarah Boone, principal at Millikin Grade School, explained how and why the Extended School Day program was put in place…”Our ESD started as a means to help some of our most struggling learners gain some intervention time to help close learning gaps,” she said. “Their in-person time is so important with teachers; the extended time gives us a window to provide a little more support to try to reduce those learning gaps.”

Boone said, “We know everyone is struggling this year, and we wanted to try to use time with our early release to meet the needs of some of our students. We are continuously brainstorming ways to meet everyone’s needs during these challenging times. This program isn’t perfect, and we wish we could always do more, but it’s a start.”

The principal reached out to administration at Geneseo High School to find out if any high school students would be willing to volunteer some time at the grade school to work with students who were identified as the “most struggling.”

There are currently four high school students who volunteer at Millikin when their schedules allow. They are sisters Alyssa and Abby Gentry, Olivia Egert and Miranda Roemer.

Boone said there are usually one or two GHS volunteers at Millikin each afternoon. “They help students practice flash cards, writing numbers or letters, answer questions that our students may have regarding missing work, etc. Our GHS students are great role models and our elementary students respond so positively to older role models.”

Reaching out to the high school students was a way to be able to support the ESD program to make it cost effective, Boone said, and added, “as well as knowing that older role models can be instrumental for motivation.”

It is a win-win as the GHS students can use the time they are helping the grade school students as volunteer hours toward earning a Silver Cord for graduation, “and it always looks good on college applications.”

Boone said she “would love to find more volunteers so we could expand the program even more. There is definitely a need for students to have more access to school. The Illinois Department of Public Health has made things so tricky for us this year.”

Elementary principals and leadership teams in the Geneseo School District have been brainstorming and exploring how to expand support to meet more needs of students…”Expansion this year will depend on what happens for fourth quarter,” Boone said. “However, we have been exploring what it would mean to add additional opportunities for anyone who is interested in staying longer at school to work on math or reading, including enrichment challenges. We’ve also been asking questions about how we might continue the ESD program next year. These ideas are some of those hidden opportunities that the challenges of Covid-19 have uncovered.”