Students celebrate the last day of summer reading program

For the last four weeks, there’s been reading, there’s been writing and there’s even been some math going on in the classrooms of Finley Road Elementary School.

On Thursday, there was only cotton candy, snow cones, popcorn and a bounce house as students from three Rock Hill elementary schools celebrated the last day of their summer reading program.

The program was hosted at Finley Road Elementary, but served students from Finley Road, Oakdale and Ebenezer Avenue elementary schools – all Title I schools that receive additional federal funding, said Jaime Cochrane, the district administrator who coordinated the program.

“This was completely voluntary,” Cochrane said of the program, which served about 80 students who just completed kindergarten, first or second grade.

While teachers recommended students who would benefit from the additional instruction during the summer break, no one was required to attend.

“It just helps enrich what they already know and gives them a jump start for the upcoming year,” said Lynn Hayes, who usually teaches kindergarten at Oakdale Elementary.

Chance Morris will be a first-grader at Oakdale in August and said he got to practice reading and writing in his summer class.

“We wrote about the park,” Chance said.

But as fun as his classes were, Chance said the celebration to wrap up the program was even better.

“You get to eat sweets and go in the jumpy house,” he said.

Thursday’s celebration was not the first school event Warren Forster has attended. He twirled cotton candy like an old pro. The snacks, bounce house and all the equipment that went with it was supplied by West End Baptist Church, where Forster attends. The church helps local schools as part of its community ministry.

“Whatever we’re doing is working,” he said. “The kids are loving it.”

The day’s activities were a reward for all the hard work the students put in over the last four weeks, when they could have been enjoying summer vacation like everybody else, said Finley Road Elementary teacher Carol Hegwood and teaching assistant Betsy Williams.

On Thursday, each student was sent home with books to keep them reading during the five remaining weeks of summer vacation to keep their skills sharp.

And although there isn’t hard data yet to prove what progress students made during the summer, Cochrane said she’s confident the program was helpful.

“All of our kids have made improvements,” she said.