Long Beach elementary schools open first summer camp for first graders

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - While students across South Mississippi are still enjoying their summer break, others in Long Beach are already starting class.

The children are participating in the district's new First Grade Summer Camp.

When Quarles Elementary opened its Kindergarten Camp last summer, educators noticed a difference.

"We noticed that those students were a lot more relaxed on the first day of school. Therefore, they had a better and smoother year," said Quarles Elementary Principal Dr. Jan Hansen.

So in 2016, the Long Beach School District added another summer camp for first graders.

"We were really excited. I thought it was a great opportunity for kids to get those first day jitters out, make new friends, learn procedures," said Quarles Elementary first grade teacher Jennifer Blackwell.

Fifty first graders are registered for the week-long, voluntary program. They spend half a day learning reading, science and math, and getting to know their teacher and classmates. The camp allows teachers to gauge their students' strengths and weaknesses so they can put them into groups based on each child's learning level.

"They're expected to do more by the end of first grade than they are by the end of kindergarten, therefore, transition to first grade can be very scary and intimidating for them," said Hansen.

Miles Davis seems to be adjusting to his new environment.

"I like my friends, my teacher, and my class. I'm really, really excited," said Miles.

Teachers hope to see that same enthusiasm when school officially starts Aug. 3.

"I really see that it's calming their nerves, because that first day coming in, we had a few that were just a little bit nervous, apprehensive about leaving their parents. So it's great that they already got that out of their system, and they're going to be ready to go on that first day of school," said Blackwell.

Hansen plans to track the students who took part in Kindergarten Camp and First Grade Camp to see if the program makes a difference.The district plans to expand the program next summer by adding camps for second and third graders.

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