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This isn’t your mother’s summer school anymore

Summer school in the South Kitsap School District has gone from streamlined to specialized.

Parents once simply registered their students for classes from elementary to high school.

But deputy superintendent Kurt Wagner said the summer-school format now varies with age.

High school-aged students still can take a variety of courses in the traditional classroom setting. Eric Canton, who is the principal for the summer-school program at South Kitsap High School, said courses are offered in English, Washington state history, math, swimming and a High School Proficiency Exam preparation class.

Classes run from 8 to 11 a.m. July 11-29 at the high school. Each costs $190.

Canton said the majority of students enroll in summer school to “recover” credits, but he said there are a small number that also want to repeat a course to earn a better grade. For example, a student who earns a “B” in physical education, biology and English, but a “D” in geometry, would finish that term with a 2.5 grade-point average. But repeating geometry and replacing that “D” with a “B” would boost the student’s GPA to a 3.0.

Wagner said a student must petition to have the original grade replaced by the higher mark. Also, the original grade remains on a student’s transcript, but is not factored into the GPA because it no longer counts as a credit.

Students also can attempt to recover credits or retake courses through the district’s online program. There are a couple of exceptions to that. Canton said Washington state history only is offered at the high school because the district’s Internet school is through Advanced Academics, which runs nationally.

Swimming is another course that only runs at the high school. Canton said that class is different from the others because students usually sign up for it to avoid taking it during the normal school year.

“I think there’s a lot of people who don’t like to have to come to school and do their hair and makeup,” he said. “A lot of kids express that.”

Canton said some students like to take swimming during the summer because it allows them to take an elective course instead during the regular year.

The high school also hosts summer school for junior-high students. But the only class offered for students at that level is a combined no-credit literature and math course.

Despite that, Canton said parents often are willing to pay for the class because they feel it gives their children a “refresher or jump start” before classes resume in September.

Whatever course students are enrolled in, Canton said district officials endeavor to keep fewer than 25 students enrolled in each class. He said because many students have struggled in those subjects before, they want there to be as much individualized attention as possible.

“If we have 32 students in a class, that’s usually not the best way for them to succeed,” he said. “We want to make it a little more user friendly to the family and the student.”

With the exception of online classes, summer school has remained similar at the high school. But the model has changed in recent years at elementary schools. Wagner said the district no longer offers regular classes for students in those age groups.

“We’re not doing a traditional summer school,” he said. “We’re not doing the, ‘You didn’t do well during the school year, so we’re going to punish you with summer school’ kind of model. The research from the national perspective hasn’t been very flattering regarding the traditional summer-school program.”

Wagner said because summer school traditionally ends for students in July, there was a “regression” that occurred in many students because of the gap between then and the start of the regular academic year.

He said the format SKSD adopted in recent years changes that because students do not view it as a punishment.

The district now combines lessons with its summer-lunch program. Superintendent Dave LaRose renamed it the Summer Lunch Program last year under his “Whole Child” philosophy. He said the aim of Whole Child is to make each student feel safe, healthy, cared for and supported, engaged and connected, and challenged.

Wagner said there are some misperceptions surrounding the lunch portion of the program. He said it has no correlation to free- and reduced-price lunches offered during the school year. Summer lunches, which are federally funded, are available to anyone 18 years old or younger.

“You don’t have to be in dire straights in order to qualify for that,” Wagner said. “They are for everybody.”

The Summer Lunch Program runs from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. from Monday through Aug. 19 at East Port Orchard, Orchard Heights and Sidney Glen elementary schools. SKSD director of food and nutritional services Ariane Shanley said those sites were selected because they have the highest levels of students on free- and reduced-price lunch in the district. She said 150 to 200 lunches were served daily at each site.

The other portion of the program runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on those dates. But rather than simply focusing on math equations or reading, Wagner said there are myriad activities that are free to participants. Last summer, Tim Shaffer brought kits to build birdhouses, while Will Murray instructed a class on robotics.

“The idea is enrichment — opportunities for kids to read, play math games to be exposed to a variety of different things — would be more holistic and more enjoyable,” Wagner said.

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