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Kids Support Summer School
Officials touring Riverbank's summer school system in classrooms devoted to engineering and science were fascinated to find some students calculating the stresses and strains to make a model crane capable of lifting some heavy books, others studying the speed of marbles rolling through a course of paper tubing and a third explaining parts and functions of the brain with a painted, papier-mâché model.

They were just as impressed to hear students of all ages speak out with considerable eloquence on the benefits of summer school and the need to keep it going despite a current threat to funding.

"I'm in Memories Book learning about pictures and photographs," said Jesus Aguiniga. "I'm learning but I'm still having fun. The community doesn't need any cuts in summer school."

"I'm getting out of the house, staying active in classes and meeting new friends. My parents know I'm safe and not causing trouble," added Lupita Rodriguez.

"You can spend three hours sleeping or stuck in front of a television set or you can be productive,' said Ryan Choeb. "I've learned to love soccer. I love to run and kick. It gets me out of doors and into the real world."

Summer school organizers for the Riverbank Unified School District showed off the system Thursday morning in a two-hour tour of the Cardozo Middle and Riverbank High programs in action for legislators, law enforcement officials, business people and policy makers at all levels.

District Director of Health and Social Services Esther Rosario and former Assistant Superintendent Susan Taylor enticed some very busy people such as Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, Riverbank Police Chief Bill Pooley and Mayor Virginia Madueno to join the tour. Also along were Michelle Finch of Assemblymember Kristin Olsen's office, Bruno Marchese of the California After School Network and representatives of the Stanislaus County Office of Education.

Besides hosting 1280 children during the regular school year in the before and after school programs known as Project ACTION, local organizers provide morning programs for almost 600 youngsters of ages pre-Kindergarten through high school age during the summer vacation.

They fear, however, that funding under the 21st Century federal grant that provided almost $2 million to finance the program here in 2011-2012 faces a decline that would drop the funding to only $500,000 or scarcely enough to handle 400 students by 2014-2015.

This is especially critical when some community challenges are taken into consideration. The unemployment rate in Riverbank is 22.8 percent compared with 15.5 percent for Stanislaus County and 11.3 percent for California as a whole. English language learners make up 54 percent of the local schools' enrollment. Seventy-six percent of students qualify for a free or reduced price lunch at school due to low parental income.

At different age levels in summer school, pre-Kindergartners receive an important jump start by participating in Kinder Camp held at California Avenue School.

High school students who need to make up classes to remain on the path to graduation can spend summer mornings working on the computers in the RHS library. For immediate help they have on hand both a credentialed teacher and former RHS graduates now enrolled in college and acting as tutors during their summer break.

For other students from elementary age through middle school to high school, summer school also offers a safe place to be while their parents are working plus stimulating physical and educational activities.

Riverbank's summer program is concentrating on offering science, technology, engineering and math experiences in a program called STEM that is calculated to prepare them for an increasingly technological world. An early interest in science better predicts future academic and career decisions than mere math achievement tests scores. The US Department of Labor predicts that more than half of all future careers will require substantial math or science preparation. At the same time, less and less school time is being devoted to science due to concentration on English and math in tests.