Academics And Fun Combined At Los Alamos Public Schools Summer School

Students in Summer School display their science experiments. Photo Courtesy LAPS

Students taking a timed math quiz. Photo Courtesy LAPS

Getting a little reading time at Summer School. Photo Courtesy LAPS


Phonics, fractions, facts and fun are the focus of Summer School this year for students in Los Alamos Public Schools. There were 150 students in preschool through 6th grade attending the three-week program at Barranca Mesa Elementary, which wrapped up on July 1. Fifty 7th and 8th graders are enrolled in the summer school program at Los Alamos Middle School, which also offers a mix of academic and elective activities.

“The purpose of summer school is to provide enrichment and remediation for phonics, fractions and facts with lots of fun,” explained David Parsons, the LAPS K-6 Summer School Director. 

“I have been involved with summer school for many years as a teacher, and more recently as the program director,” explained Parsons. “This year I am excited to have Beverly Nelson, my long time colleague from Chamisa, work alongside me to help manage the program.”

He added, “I am fortunate to have an awesome and flexible staff that keeps things running smoothly. Coordinating with the YMCA, we did a fire drill last Friday.”  

LAPS has held summer school for many years, rotating between elementary school sites. This year, the program is being held at Barranca Mesa Elementary School. Over 40 school staff, including teachers, instructional assistants, speech therapists, occupational therapists, SROs and other support services, help with summer school.

Preparations for summer school begin in early spring. Students are recommended to attend summer school by their teachers. Staff are surveyed as to their interest in working at summer school. Many staff return each year for summer school, which adds to the continuity of the program. “Summer school is running very smoothly this year,” Parsons said. “The staff and students want to be here.”

“Students are able to practice their academic skills in a low stress environment and maintain a routine,” explained Parsons. “And teachers have more flexibility with the curriculum. They can try new methods of instruction and get feedback from the students.”

“We give the kids what they need academically but make it fun so they want to come to summer school,” he added.

“Summer School allows kids to be able to still learn while having fun in the summer,” said Aubrey Cisneros, an Instructional Assistant from Aspen Elementary School. “I love getting to see and work with the kids.”

Students not only find their peers from their own school, but make new friends among the students from the other elementary schools in the county. Likewise, summer school staff come from all the school sites and are able to share best practices and ideas. “It’s an opportunity to gain appreciation for colleagues across the district,” said Parsons.

“Each day I look forward to spending time with the kids at recess and seeing teachers in action,” Parsons said. “As I want to become a school principal eventually, I am grateful for this training ground.”

“My favorite part of Summer School has been meeting students from other elementary schools in the district and watching them develop relationships with other students that they have never met before,” noted Rebekah Butcher, who is working as a first grade Instructional Assistant. “During the regular school year I work as the reading assistant at Mountain Elementary. I decided to work at Summer School so I could help the students with their reading and phonemic awareness skills.

Liz Janusz, a 7th grade English Language Arts teacher at Los Alamos Middle School is running the summer school program at LAMS. There is a team of five teachers offering classes in English Language Arts, Hands-On Math, Clay, All Things Art and Physical Education.

“Teachers recommend students that would benefit from taking additional academic classes to practice a few extra skills before taking the whole summer off,” explained Ms. Janusz. “We want students to have a chance to choose classes that interest them. Many were excited for the chance to pursue additional art and PE activities.”

Summer school also gives staff an opportunity to make a little extra income without having to sacrifice the entire summer to a second job. It is also a chance to work with students who need a little extra help between the end of one school year and the start of the new school year. ”By giving these students a chance to participate in a learning environment that is smaller and a bigger variety of learning activities, it makes me happy to see these kids click and connect with the topics their homeroom teachers introduced and taught them during the 2021-2022 school year,” said Alyssa Van Anne, who teaches second grade at Mountain Elementary School.

“My favorite part of Summer School is having a little more freedom as to what is being taught,” she continued.  “With Summer School, the kids have had the opportunity to vote on what we will be reading, as well as present additional projects that engage the kids more than just paper and pencil work. By giving the kids a choice in their learning, I have seen them be more excited with being in class, and have made connections with them in what they like to learn, talk about, and do in their free time.”