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Teacher Andrea Goings works with Noelle Speas, 7, a student in the Logan Elm District, on counting along side Jonathan Davis, Circleville City Schools Superintendent. Noelle is among the first students to participate in the Summer Learning Academy, which is part of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio

CIRCLEVILLE — The Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio (DSACO) has expanded its Summer Learning Academy into Pickaway County for the first time.

Several state and local developmental disabilities and school officials were on hand at Circleville Elementary Wednesday to see the program in action. Five students from across the county are served at the school.

The five-week, 60-hour program is designed to help elementary school-age children with developmental disabilities retain the progress they made during the school year and prevent the summer slide that occurs when students are out of school for summer, said Kari Jones, president and CEO of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio,

“We decided to offer this program because we saw great success in Franklin County and we have a part of our strategic plan is to better serve more rural communities and to serve more broadly and in communities not for communities,” she said. “Additionally, we know there are a lot of children that don’t have access to educational services over the summer.”

Jones said resources are limited for many families and school districts and the program is a way to help fill in the gap during the summer months.

“We try to sandwich the program right smack dab in the middle of summer,” she said. “We start in June and end in late July so we can hopefully combat that summer slide we see.”

Jones said the program is designed to serve up to 8 students per class.

“We want to make sure we are giving individualized instruction,” she said. “We have two instructors which is usually one general education teacher and one intervention specialist and an aid for personal care.”

Jones said during the course, parents choose two individual education plan (IEP) goals for their children to work on.

“Typically, they’re a math or literacy goal,” she said. “It depends on the student and where they are academically.”

Jonathan Davis, Circleville City Schools Superintendent, said the program was an opportunity to “dip our toe in the water” of providing more summer resources.

“We’ve worked with the [developmental disabled] and with families that can benefit,” he said. “I truly believe this is just scratching the service of opportunities for students who could benefit from opportunities through extended school year services. We really try to provide more summer offerings for students to bridge the gap from May to August.”

Paolo DeMaria, superintendent of the Ohio Department of Education, said the program was great for the students who participate.

“The more we can do to give them the supports they need, the better off they’re going to be,” he said. “That’s the whole premise behind our strategic plan, each child our future, is understanding the needs of each child. Today, we had students who each had very specific very deep needs and the educational system working with the developmental disabilities system and others in the community are rising to the occasion and saying how do we provide the things they need. It’s right in line with what we should be doing for all our students.”

Jones said the program in Circleville is how they want the program to work as they grow it in other counties.

“If you have just the county board of developmental disabilities or just the school districts interests it’s not going to best serve the families so I really value that we see that collaboration,” she said. “It’s not something we see in every county we are pushing out to. This is a perfect example of what we want to see and what our vision is to serve people.”

Mike Pelcic, Pickaway County Board of Developmental Disabilities superintendent, said a program like this has been a missing piece.

“There are some camps and some other things, but to have 10 to 12 weeks off they fall behind,” he said. “A program like this fills in the gaps and we’re excited about it. I’m sure this program will gain traction and more kids will get involved with it as another option.”

Peclic also said the kids are having a blast during the day.

“The kids seemed to be engaged and they’re making new friends, building relationships and having a good time,” he said.

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