Summer program sets high goals for Vail Valley kids |

Summer program sets high goals for Vail Valley kids

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –Vail Valley special education teachers often have their hands full, but they remain focused on their students to ensure they can make it once they reach the next grade level.

That’s what Eagle County schools’ extended school year program for special education is for – making sure special education students who have worked so hard throughout the school year retain the information they’ve learned, said Donna Trujillo-Lovato, the assistant director for Mountain Board of Cooperative Extension Services, which runs the program for the school district.

Special education students have something called an individual education plan that helps teachers map out the learning goals for each student. When students go on breaks during the school year – Thanksgiving break, winter and spring breaks – teachers look to see if they’ve lost any skills learned before the break.

If they have forgotten some skills, they then qualify for the summer program, said Melanie Bacon, a Gypsum Creek Middle School special education teacher heading up the downvalley program for middle and high school students.

“We try to make sure we continue working on those (skills) so they don’t lose a lot of that (information) in the summer,” she said.

Mary Coe, a special education teacher at Red Hill Elementary, said leaving the students for months at a time over the summer adds to the possibility that they won’t retain what they’ve just learned in school.

“And then we’re starting all over again, which is not what we want to do,” she said.

Coe said the repetition is critical because the students “really do struggle with memory and retention,” she said. Hearing the lessons throughout the program helps instill it in their minds, hopefully keeping it there between the end of the program and the beginning of the next school year, which is about a three-week break.

The summer program is six weeks long and offered to all Eagle County students who qualify. There are two schools downvalley and two schools upvalley where students attend the program, and rather than keeping the students buried in the books for the entire time, the teachers make it fun for them as often as they can, Trujillo-Lovato said.

Students play baseball and use math skills to keep score. Some students are creating logos for a T-shirt that will help give them job experience while others needing self-help skills will iron the logos onto the T-shirts, she said.

“It’s all tying in the skills that they’re lacking,” she said.

While the teachers and students have fun throughout the summer program and also put in a lot of work, the major priority is to make sure these students don’t fall behind in the progress they’ve already made.

“This program isn’t for progress – this is for them to maintain their skills,” Trujillo-Lovato said. “With special education students it takes a lot for them to learn, so when they do make the progress on that skill or goal you don’t want them to lose it.”

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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