Saturday school brings on the fun

Winchester Elementary demonstrates the popularity of HUSD Saturday School program

Photos by Corey Evan / The Valley Chronicle
Miss Bailey teaches Saturday School attendees how we are all the same inside, using eggs to demonstrate.

■ By Corey Evan / Reporter

Some kids are able to avoid ever having to call out sick from school. (Lucky them.) Most, however, will eventually miss a day due to a dental appointment, the dreaded influenza… or by skipping school on purpose. Thankfully for them, there’s Saturday School. Hang on, it’s not that bad at Hemet Unified School District.
As a matter of fact, Hemet’s monthly Saturday School program is tons of fun for those who come in. Last Saturday at Winchester Elementary, students arrived to a showing of “The Secret Life of Pets,” before jumping into activities which coincided with Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
You see, unlike in the past when some school districts would issue Saturday school as a punishment for bad behavior or attendance issues, HUSD program is voluntary.

First grader Sylvia colors a picture for a Martin Luther King, Jr.-themed activity.

Miss Gayle at Winchester summed up Saturday School: “We have a lot of students who miss (due to cold and flu season), and it gives them a chance to make up. Here at Winchester, our kids really want to have perfect (or outstanding) attendance.”
That’s because those who do have outstanding attendance are allowed to participate in a spirit rally at the end of the school year, where they get to turn Principal Delano into a great big human sundae! Talk about a Nickelodeon kid’s dream… We will try to cover that for a future issue!
Saturday School also provides a chance to refresh on what students learn throughout the week. Miss Bailey gave students a brief lecture about how we’re all the same inside, despite us all being a little different on the outside. She likened it unto food: Apples have white inners, even if one has red skin and another green. Eggs all have yellow yolks even if one’s shell is brown and another white or blue.
Students even had a breakfast that tied it all together: Scrambled eggs. With sausage. All students who attended Saturday School at Winchester on Jan. 21 went home with a tag that reflects King’s “I have a dream” speech.
In the Hemet school district, kids actually like to attend Saturday School. If nothing else, it gave fourth grader Colton and his sister, first grader Sylvia, the chance to catch up after a family trip.
“We took too many days off,” Colton explained. “My dad had to work… We all had to go, but it was fun.”
“This is our first time,” Sylvia pointed out.

Breakfast included scrambled eggs and sausage. Sorry, bacon wasn’t on the menu.

As time went on, both found their groups of friends and had a blast. That said, some students don’t like to go it alone on Saturday.
“I really don’t like Saturday School unless I’m with my friends,” says fourth grader Jadesha. But isn’t everything better with friends?
Saturday School is popular throughout the district. On Dec. 10th of last year, 1,287 students showed up to make up absences. Tahquitz High School drew the biggest crowd with 179 students, Acacia led the middle school pack with 54 Cougars and among elementary schools, Whittier was the busiest with 149. But Winchester currently has a personal best of 181! That’s a lot of make-up days!
The district does get money for students’ attendance, which counters what the schools lose when students aren’t in their seats. It’s worth pointing out that from 2008 to 2013, average daily attendance went down by 2,200 students, even as district enrollment has gone up. The idea is to encourage regular attendance and discourage preventable absenteeism.
And that money continues to fund this program. But it’s only when students clear absences that the money comes in.
According to Kristi Watson, principal of Bautista Creek Elementary, “We are not reimbursed for students with perfect attendance, nor are we able to offer ‘credit,’ but we welcome any student who wants to participate. Their participation does count in terms of supporting the success of the grant for this program. Our students love to come to Saturday School because it is fun and they get the opportunity to do enrichment activities related to STEM.”
San Jacinto also has had a Saturday School program like Hemet since 2012. In both programs, not only is learning reinforced but it also is a good alternative to having the kids hog the TV all morning with “Sponge Bob” reruns.
With all that in mind, now you know more about Saturday School. Let’s face it; life happens, even to kids. It’s important to remember that they too need someone to have their back when it does. That’s what Saturday School is all about.

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