Sierra House Elementary’s two-week program offers more than academics |

Sierra House Elementary’s two-week program offers more than academics

Autumn Whitney
A group of kids are all smiles as they await their turns on the ropes course at Heavenly's Epic Discovery. The trip was part of Sierra House Elementary's Summer Blast Program.
Courtesy / Isaiah Tannaci |

Summer is drawing to an end and school is nearing, which means students need to get out of the two-month slump they’ve been in — but not all students fit this mold. Over the past two weeks, Sierra House Elementary School held its first-ever Summer Blast program, featuring a morning of academic instruction followed by an afternoon of enrichment activities.

The idea stems from studies that show students could benefit from additional schooling prior to the start of the next academic year. The resulting summer program helps prevent a reading gap many students suffer from currently. More time spent reading over the summer means less catch-up required at the beginning of the year.

“There’s a back slide of when school ends to when the next school year begins. We did great work to interrupt that slide. There’s potential to give kids a boost that they need if there were any deficient skills,” Sierra House principal Ryan Galles said.

For two weeks, approximately 60 students, from kindergarten to second grade, participated in enrichment activities including hikes to Eagle Falls and Pope Beach, a tour of the Lake Tahoe Community College campus, trips to South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena and Inversion Gym, as well as a day spent at Heavenly’s Epic Discovery.

“No one was excited about traditional summer school. What was exciting was how do we get experiences for kids that don’t normally get them, and get them motivated to come every day by doing enrichment activities in the afternoon,” Galles said.

One of Summer Blast’s main goals is for children to retain exposure to literacy skills. Students are placed in small groups based on reading level and academic need, and receive instruction from one of five teachers. According to Galles, other subjects — such as science and math — are tied in when appropriate if there is a theme the group is working on.

“[Students] had over 40 hours of academics to get a leg up going into the school year. It’s a week break between the Summer Blast program and the start of the school year. They have skills they wouldn’t have had if the program didn’t exist,” Galles added.

The program runs the length of a normal school day, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The morning academic portion is approximately four hours, and the enrichment is two. There are breaks for lunch and a short morning recess. Sierra House hopes to expand its program next summer and offer spots to 80 students.

This summer’s two-week program was targeted to those in academic need, but other future plans include reaching all students. According to Galles, the school received many calls from families who wanted to be in the program.

“We recognize the attractiveness of the program,” he added. “It’s equitable for all families to be part of it.”

For more information, visit

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.