STARS Program provides extra learning opportunities

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2019

LANETT — When the final bell rings at W.O. Lance Elementary School in Lanett, the day isn’t over for some students.

Between 50 and 80 students head to the school’s after-school STARS Program, which stands for Students, Teachers, Administrators Reaching Success. The program is run by W.O. Lance Elementary reading coach Whittany Nolen and three other instructors.

She said the program is vital for the children attending, and it is integral that the program is educational and does something to enhance the student success.

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“We not only put our expectations for our students, but also for our teachers,” Nolen said at the most recent Lanett City Schools Board Meeting.

She said the program is all about remediation enhancement.

“If our students are meeting remediation in something, then it is our responsibility to enhance them and take them to the next level,” Nolen said.

The program starts with a daily, nutritious, after-school snack for 20 minutes and an opportunity to decompress a bit from the school day. This is when the four instructors begin to assist the students with their homework.

The older students in the fifth and sixth grades generally have more difficult assignments, so it usually takes them a bit longer, but Nolen works with the young students, who’s work is usually done within the snack time window.

After the snack is finished, the program engages in D.E.A.R., or Drop Everything and Read. She said the reason this is implemented in the program is based on research.

“Students that have 20 minutes of reading a day score in the 90th percentile on their high-stakes tests,” Nolen said. “This is why it is essential that we ensure that our students are getting at least 20 minutes of reading.”

After the reading time, there are reading and math lessons. They have a math journal that the students work on every day. An example Nolan showed was a first-grade student learning how to work through two-step math problems. Older students will receive a more complicated question, which they will sometimes use Chromebooks to solve. She said the program attempts to weave in the use of technology as much as it can. The program has 28 computers within its lab, which students rotate in and out of to ensure all students get equal use.

Nolen said the program also has a daily dose of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons. An example of this was during Dr. Seuss week when students had to construct a hat using technology.

There is also physical education and art opportunities for the students to end the day. The physical education time isn’t just free time, Nolen said. The students are learning the rules to certain games such as kickball, soccer and basketball.

Superintendent Phillip Johnson said the STARS program has been a valuable tool within the district, providing academic enrichment and remediation. He said the parents value the program because of the homework assistance.

“Our leadership team believes students need access to academic help outside of the school day and for exciting activities like visual art, soccer or lacrosse that aren’t readily available in a small-town environment,” Johnson said.