July 18, 2008

Summer School is a Good Option for Some

By Kelly Holleran, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.

Jul. 18--CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Other options for picking up credits have reduced the number of Kanawha County students in summer school, but it remains the best alternative for some.

The number of students taking summer school classes in Kanawha County has decreased by more than 10 percent since last year.

About 260 students registered for the first semester of classes, which started June 25 and ended Wednesday. That was down from slightly more than 300 last year.

The trend is the same for the second summer semester, which started Thursday and runs through Aug. 6. About 272 students registered, as compared to 307 last year, said Bill Webb, the program coordinator.

Officials say schools are offering students more options during the regular academic year to to meet course requirements and accumulate credits.

For example, students can now participate in a program called "Fifth Block," which allows them to attend an after-school class to earn an extra credit.

The county also has a "virtual school" program. It's a series of online courses available to students who want to pick up extra credits, Webb said.

Still, for some students summer school remains the best option.

All summer courses are held at Capital High School.

Nikki Bryant, who will be a junior at Capital in the fall, said the program seemed like the fastest and easiest way to get the English credit she needed.

Summer school isn't as bad as some students make it out to be, she said.

"The first day they're strict, but then after that, it's not so bad," she said.

That sentiment was echoed by Ryan Schultz, a Nitro High School student who needed an English class to graduate.

"It isn't that bad," he said. His biggest complaint was the lunch offerings left something to be desired.

He had only good things to say about Webb and other teachers who spend their summer days in the classroom.

This was the first time for both Bryant and Schultz to take summer school classes.

Summer school is open to students in grades 6 through 12 and isn't limited to those who have failed a course and need the credit to advance to the next grade.

Students also register if they need a credit to meet overall graduation requirements, if they want to improve their grade point average to be eligible for extracurricular activities or if they want to take certain electives they can't take during the school year for some reason.

But the main motivation has changed in recent years, Webb said.

"It used to be that students would go to summer school to get classes out of the way -- maybe pick up a typing class," he said. "It's purely remediation now. Kids have to have it to graduate or to play ball."

The cost of a one-credit class is $400, but students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches because of their family's income can qualify for discounts of up to $200, Webb said.

Students attend summer school five days a week from 7:45 a.m. until 1 p.m. It's a rigorous schedule, but they learn a lot, Webb said. In fact, the curriculum during one day of summer school is equal to about six days of regular school, Webb said. They take only one subject.

Thursday was orientation day for students enrolled in the second summer semester.

Webb's philosophy is to reward students for good behavior and to emphasize the theme, "Be on time. Stay on task." He must have repeated the phrase 50 times during Thursday's orientation.

And it works, he said. More than 90 percent of students who take a summer school class pass.

"My job is to help you do the best you can do," Webb told students during the orientation. "You all have all kinds of potential. Potential means we haven't done it yet. Our desire is for you to do the very best you can. We provide inspiration, you provide perspiration."

Staff seemed eager to return to school and to work with Webb.

"If he's not one of the top administrators in this county, I don't know who is," said Rod Morris, a history teacher at the summer school and a teacher at Riverside High School.

Webb is a strict administrator who is successful with the summer school program because he can quickly develop a great rapport with students, said Sharon Paxton, an English teacher from Herbert Hoover High who teaches summer courses.

"There's no bluffing with him," Paxton said. "It is what it is. What he says, he means."


To see more of the Charleston Daily Mail or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.dailymail.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.