Fort Howard students still waiting for summer to begin

GREEN BAY - Summer break is starting later this year for children at one area elementary school, in fact, it hasn't started yet.

Green Bay's Fort Howard Elementary was forced to extend classes after students couldn't meet state standards.

Because of low test scores, students need to attend class until the end of the month. And for the next two years, even more hours at their desks will be the norm.

While other kids are already enjoying their freedom, Fort Howard students will be in school until Monday.

"It's kind of fun because we get to spend more time with our friends and we get to learn a little more," said fifth grader Harby Nazario.

Most are taking it in stride, but admit they long to be outdoors.

"I deserve to go out and hang out longer than when I have to be home and take a shower and get to bed earlier," said fifth grader Alexis King.

This year, Fort Howard extended the school day by 30 minutes, and added 13 days of instruction. Classes go from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

The next two years, another half-hour will be added to the day. Students begin class at 7:30 a.m. and will again attend school through June.

The extra time in the classroom is because student test scores failed to stay up to par for three years in a row. So the Department of Public Instruction designated Fort Howard a priority school.

"Recommendations from the state of Wisconsin is that all priority schools, there are four of them, would be implementing 300 additional hours of instruction," said Fort Howard principal DeAnn Lehman.

Lehman says the school is working to raise student achievement by building a culture for learning.

"We're doing a lot with the growth mindset, and it's talking a lot about it's okay to make mistakes."

District officials would not say if they felt the designation is concerning.

"We are making the most of the designation, and really using this opportunity to provide our students with extended learning time at school," said district official Teri Willems.

Other schools in the district need improvement, but to a lesser degree. The DPI has identified Danz, Eisenhower, and Nicolet as focus schools.

"They also are all offering summer learning opportunities for their students. Professional development for staff," Willems explained.

A plan is in place to keep the momentum going once summer kicks off for students at Fort Howard. Books and math activities will be delivered to their homes during July and August.

"They'll receive 15 books and up to about 10 math activities that the families can be engaged in and doing over the summer," said Lehman.

Fort Howard parents we spoke with don't mind the extra learning time.

"He's doing great in his studies and advancing even further in school now that he's in school longer," said Fort Howard parent Brian Coppock.

Lehman says the ultimate goal is to see a slow gain over the next couple of years.

"But we are very happy to say that we're seeing some of those gains already within our school assessments," Lehman said.

In addition to more school time, Fort Howard has incorporated parent learning sessions. They are designed to get parents familiar with the curriculum so they can support their child's learning.