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San Lucas School offers summer programming for first time

Part of state’s Expanded Learning Opportunities Program

San Lucas students end their field trip with beach play and sand dollar collecting at Morro Rock State Beach. (Contributed)

SAN LUCAS — San Lucas Union School District offered its first-ever Expanded Learning Opportunities Program (ELO-P) earlier this summer.

ELO-P is a California Department of Education program intended to enhance the academic, social, emotional and physical needs and interests of students that support regular school day learning activities.

Since 87% of San Lucas students are socioeconomically disadvantaged and 49% are English language learners, the San Lucas ELO-P planning team identified oral language as their area of focus.

“Cooperative learning experiences that develop 21st century skills in literacy, collaboration and critical thinking all begin with oral communication,” said Superintendent Jessica Riley. “Students need to develop skills where they can explain what they are thinking and why, as well as agree and disagree with others using respectful language, so that they can grow into adults who know how to agree and disagree with others using respectful language.”

San Lucas staff and students learn about native marine animals aboard a Sub Sea Tour during a trip to Morro Bay this summer, part of the school district’s first-ever Expanded Learning Opportunities Program. (Contributed)

Students entering Transitional Kindergarten through grade 6 were invited to participate.

Over the course of the three-week program from July 5-22, students spent nine hours a day, four days a week, on various projects, including planning and putting on a car wash at the school as part of a business planning activity and creating their own water play activities to stay cool in the 100-plus degree heat.

Other activities included: using the school makerspace to do STEAM projects, which they then presented through show and tell; working in the school garden; playing a variety of board games that promote friendly competition, decision making and memory retention; and going on walking trips to the school library and around town.

Each Friday during the program was set aside for field trips, which exposed the students from their rural, unincorporated town to the much larger, outside world.

San Lucas staff and students take a field trip to the Atascadero Zoo to learn about animal behavior. (Contributed)

The first field trip took students to the Atascadero Zoo to learn about animal behavior, followed by picnicking at the playground and walking to the lake. The second field trip was a visit to Moonstone Beach to observe tide pool habitats, followed by visits to the Coastal Discovery Center in San Simeon Bay, and then a check-in on the Elephant Seal Vista Point.

The final field trip — largely funded by the students’ car wash during week one — was a trip to Morro Bay. Students started at the Maritime Museum, then sailed on a glass bottomed Sub Sea Tour to see and learn about native marine animals, including sea otters, sea lions, jellyfish and fish, and ended the trip with beach play and sand dollar collecting at Morro Rock State Beach.

Due to limited staffing and funding, San Lucas USD has never offered summer programming before. 

“With the introduction of ELO-P funds, the school was excited to offer a program, but unsure what to expect in student turnout,” Riley said.

San Lucas students visit the Maritime Museum during a trip to Morro Bay this summer. (Contributed)

More than one-third of the student TK-6 enrollment for San Lucas attended the ELO-P for at least one day of the program. According to Riley, the staff hopes for a larger turnout at future ELO-P programs, which will include winter and spring break ELO-P.

San Lucas USD Board Clerk Maribel Velasco chose to enroll her daughter in the ELO-P and was very satisfied with the end results. 

“All our kids benefitted from three weeks full of fun activities and field trips,” Velasco said. “Staff provided a variety of options each day as well as meals. We are very grateful for everything San Lucas School staff does for all our children. I can’t wait to see what they have planned next.”