Mineola summer program makes progress toward goals

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A total of 65 students in the Mineola school district participated in this summer's Extended School Year program for special education students. (Photo from Mineola school district via YouTube)

The Mineola school district’s summer special education program took steps this year toward getting students to interact more with each other, one of its major goals, its director said.

Some 65 special education students participated in the Extended School Year program over the summer break, down from 77 last year, Laurie Melesh, the chairwoman of the district’s Committee on Special Education who leads the program, told the school board last Thursday.

This year, instructors aimed to balance academics with social skills and community engagement in the program’s second year at Mineola Middle School, a goal they achieved by encouraging classes to work together, Melesh said.

“It was a great summer,” Melesh said. “I think the kids enjoyed it more than I even expected it.”

The program for kindergartners through high school seniors helps strengthen academic skills such as reading, as well as basic life skills, such as cooking and pedestrian safety.

Some 94 students were recommended to the program this year, up from 82 last year. But fewer actually participated because they didn’t need the extra help, or opted to attend other programs outside of district schools, Melesh said.

Teachers planned several collaborative activities to encourage the students to work together, such as assembling a large puzzle and painting a mural at the middle school, Melesh said.

By the end of the summer, all the students knew the names of just about every student in the program, Melesh said.

For next year’s program, the district will look into refining its process for recommending students to the program, Melesh said.

The program’s leaders also hope to increase the number of activities students do in the surrounding community, she said.

Each summer they make weekly trips to the Village of Mineola swimming pool each Monday and take a trip on the Long Island Rail Road, Melesh said. Some students took their first-ever trip on a train this summer, she said.

“Next year our major goal is really going to be continuing the community and the academic balance for our kiddos, and also collaborating with the community a little bit more,” Melesh said.

The school board vice president, Margaret Ballantyne-Mannion, praised the program’s progress over the past 15 years. She said it has grown into a “collaborative, exciting, purposeful, integrated set of activities” with “a real vision of what kids need.”

Also on Thursday, district Superintendent Michael Nagler said administrators have reached an agreement for a new contract with the Mineola Teachers Association, the district’s teachers union.

Nagler declined to give details on the contract, but said it will be presented to the school board for a vote at its Sept. 14 meeting.

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