By Gloria Stravelli
METUCHEN – Students are back in the classroom this week as the public school district’s annual Metuchen Summer Institute 2021 gets underway and school officials are welcoming their return.
“We don’t want to shut down the gates of the school in the summer and say, ‘See you in September,’” Vincent Caputo, superintendent of Metuchen Public Schools, said this week. “Our goal is to keep our schools open and vibrant, and do our summer repairs and our summer cleaning, but work around those things and still have some classes.
“More than 10 years ago we had a number of programs like College Writing and the Application Process and programs like that,” he explained. “We’ve added over the last decade what we call AP Edge classes to get a head start for students taking AP [advanced placement] classes.
“Sometimes it’s for a new subject, or maybe it’s the first time the student is taking AP classes,” Caputo said. “It might be students who want to get a five-day head start on the program. And the teachers who are going to be teaching the AP classes offer those five-day programs throughout the summer.
“We also offer other programs like social skills, transitional programs such as from fourth- to fifth-grade,” he added.
According to the district website, “Summer Institute programs have been designed to provide students with strategies for learning, transitioning into a new grade, preparing for more rigorous AP classes and beginning the college application process.”
There are programs available to rising first-graders through middle and high school students. Sessions are held both in-person and virtually and cost varies from no fee to $50 for the first workshop and $25 for each additional. Fees are waived for students on free or reduced lunch.
Schedules vary for the Summer Institute, according to Caputo, who said teachers and supervisors determine what works best for each course. Classes will be ongoing all summer, but not every program will meet each day. Transportation is not available for the program.
Caputo estimated there are some 400 students engaged in the district’s summer programs, 200 of those in the extended school year program, some 100 in the extended STREAM program and some 100 in the Summer Institute.
For more information on Metuchen Summer Institute offerings, visit the district website at www.metuchenschools.org. Registration for the 2021 session closed June 4.
The Summer Institute is one of three programs ongoing during the summer, Caputo said.
“By law, some special education students are required to have an extended school year. So we’ve always had an extended school year program during the summer and some special education students have IPs and … get an extended school year, school that continues into the summer,” he said, adding the program runs for six weeks.
“Most districts offer a program like that and those students need to have extra learning, or special programs around social skills, so we’ve always had that. We’ve enhanced it over the years – that’s one part of our program.
“The second part of our program – second of the three components that we have going on this summer – is what we’re calling STREAM and Mr. (Richard) Cohen [assistant superintendent] is running that.
“STREAM is a takeoff on STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — the R is for reading and A is for Arts.
“It is in the model for our Whole Child Initiative, where we have a problem-solving, science-based summer program with a lot of teamwork and group work and building in social and emotional skills into problem solving,” Caputo said.
“That’s the second program and we have over 100 students involved in that program, which is really exciting.
“And the third part of our summer we’ve added to every year is our Metuchen Summer Institute.
“We’re really excited that we have these three components, which, some is for special education, some is the STREAM programming, others are the Summer Institute classes for upper middle school and high school students to get them ready for next year, whether it’s algebra or geometry or the AP classes.
“We want to offer our classes to whichever students are willing and able – and what I mean able to take it – because they have the right prerequisite and they’re willing to try it even if it’s a little outside their comfort zone.
“They’re pushing themselves a little bit and one of the ways we help them, both from a confidence standpoint and from a content standpoint, is to offer this.
“Teachers want to get a head start on the year, the students get a head start on the year. So when they start on day one they’ve already met the teacher, they have the material, they’ve already done some assignments or some readings.”
According to Caputo, some of the courses, such as college essay writing and application assistance, are standards for the Summer Institute and each session course offerings are added.
“We’ve taken several existing programs and each year we add to it and we put them under the umbrella of the Metuchen Summer Institute,” he said. “Some are guidance, some are AP, some are extra help, and some are the transitional. It kind of highlights the fact that we’re open.”
Caputo noted the Summer Institute benefits both students and teachers.
“We’re happy the money that we use is going to our teachers to pay them salaries for working with our kids over the summer,” he said. “It’s a win-win-win, it’s good for the kids, good for the community. It’s good for the kids who need the help, or want the help, it gives them a head start.
“And it’s good for the teachers who are connected with us,” he said. “They don’t leave in June and don’t come back,” Caputo said. “Many of them are in and working in our schools, they’re connected and it makes them feel part of the community and they’re also getting paid for it. So it’s really a win-win-win.”