Special day: County students with an Individualized Education Program take their learning to Scotts Flat Lake | TheUnion.com

Special day: County students with an Individualized Education Program take their learning to Scotts Flat Lake

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

Flashes of sunlight skip across the lake’s surface.

A cool breeze strikes the faces of kids playing in the sand, experimenting with kites and swimming in Scotts Flat Lake.

For administrators and students, the day is made more special by the fact that these kids aren’t always afforded such independence from their parents.

The event Wednesday was part of the county’s Extended School Year program, where students with an Individualized Education Program take part in a one-day camping trip. About 30 kids, most in kindergarten through eighth grade, were in attendance.

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Their participation, asserting such autonomy as special education students during the summer months, is rare, said Eli Gallup, associate superintendent for the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools

“The impact for these students is amazing because a lot of them haven’t been away from their parents for a night,” he said.

The idea to take special education students camping at Scotts Flat came 30 years ago from former physical education specialist Dave Potter, said Brendan Cariaga, Extended School Year coordinator for the county superintendent of schools. Wednesday, Cariaga said he was honoring the legacy of Potter, who died a few years ago.

“He was big on advocating for getting access to Nevada County,” said Cariaga.

The event is not just for students. It’s also meant to be a point of outreach, attracting young people to work in special education and allowing parents to better understand the Extended School Year program, said Cariaga.

The coordinator enjoys the program because it instills students with responsibility and confidence.

The kids and teenagers go shopping for food that they cook and then eat. They whip up a “special Scotts Flat marinade,” said Cariaga. They help set up their own tents.

“This is really expeditionary learning,” he said.

Shianna McClendon, a Nevada Union student who has attended the event since 2013, said she enjoys “almost everything” about the camping trip.

The event and broader programs carry particular resonance for Gallup. Special education students lose about six months of learning on average during the summer, he said, which is why the Extended School Year program is significant, keeping kids engaged in the education process longer. The associate superintendent is inspired by the event in particular as it’s helped create stronger community and a better learning environment for kids.

“It reminds me of why I became an educator, seeing the growth of the students.”

Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at scorey@theunion.com.

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