SYRACUSE – At its monthly meeting, the Wawasee School Board heard from Title I reading specialist Lora Bieghler on the impact of the guided readding program used at Wawasee Community School Corporation elementary schools.

According to Bieghler, guided reading has been a part of the WCSC elementary curriculum for three years now and has shown great improvements in students’ reading comprehension over that period.

During guided reading, K-5 students spend approximately 30 minutes per day doing guided reading, which entails discussions about the book’s genre, actual reading and discussion on themes and content within the books. Each group contains three to six kids with books that fit their reading comprehension level.

“We’re not trying to teach them that specific book,” Bieghler said. “We’re trying to reach them reading structure.”

“It’s not rocket science,” she said regarding ensuring kids are at the appropriate reading level. “We have to make sure we have data at the beginning so we put them at the right levels, and from there they can just move on up.”

She said that the guided reading sparks curiosity in the kids, citing instances where students needed a globe to understand where in the world a story was taking place. It also allows for questions about culture in different parts of the world, which she stated the kids love.

“It’s less instructional than it is listening in,” Bieghler said about teacher involvement. “The discussions let teachers know if book levels are too hard or if students are ready to move on to more advanced reading.”

Bieghler added that the books are “highly engaging” and that she never has students who are uninterested in the books they are provided.

She also said that guided reading has led to increased IREAD scores.

In his COVID-19 report, WCSC Superintendent Dr. Stephen Troyer stated that in March, only 12 students and staff tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in 120 quarantines. In April, so far, however, there have been 13 positive tests despite missing the first week of the month due to spring break. Troyer attributes this spike to spring break travel.

“We want to urge the community and families to stay diligent,” Troyer said. “We’ve committed to staying open this year, and we intend to continue to do that with the community’s help.”

Troyer continued to discuss Wawasee’s summer school program, which will run from June 1 to 23 for a total of 17 days of instruction at the K-8 level; 15 total days will be used at the high school level.

“We’re planning for as robust of a program as possible,” he said, “and I think we’re going to see some gains come out of (the summer school program) that will close some of the gaps caused by the pandemic.”

He said the ECO Challenge program will be brought back this July, funded by CARES Act money. Incoming sixth-graders and freshmen will be able to participate for credit needed to graduate high school.

Troyer also stated that IREAD testing, which happened in March, did not show drastically decreased scores due to the pandemic.

The board also approved the reappointment of Diana Castell to a four-year term on the Syracuse-Turkey Creek Township Public Library Board of Trustees.

In other school board news:

• The Builders Association of North Central Indiana donated $500 to both North Webster Elementary and Syracuse Elementary to be used for coats and other student needs.

• The Wawasee High School football team received a donation of $2,535 from Track and Trail powersports.

• A $500 donation was made to the Byron Oswald Memorial Fund by David and Rebecca Jewel.

• Wawasee Agriculture Department teacher Mariah Roberts received a $3,820 award from Arrow Head Country RC&D to be used for agriculture and biology cross-curriculum needs.

• Northern Lakes Insurance donated $500 to Wawasee Supermileage team to be used for a new engine and other vehicle items.

• The Wawasee Early Learning Center received a $2,432 grant from the Kosciusko County Community Foundation that will be used to recover expenses caused by the pandemic.

• The Syracuse Elementary Physical Education Department received a $1,000 KEYS grant for P.E. equipment.

• Syracuse Church of God donated $1,002 to WHS National Honors Society that will go toward the clothing closet.

• Kiwanis donated $942 to WHS Key Club.