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Developing skills in summer

July 11, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

The desks are stacked in corners, the hallways dark, but in some classrooms at North Hagerstown High School, talk of conjunctions and hanging prepositions still goes on.

"Yes! Comma, I love English class in the summertime," teacher Chuck Malone exclaimed during a discussion about the punctuation mark's uses.

While many teenagers' conversations over the past few months have centered on swimming, summer crushes and part-time jobs, students at North High and schools throughout Washington County still are taking reading, writing and arithmetic.

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About 315 students are taking summer school classes at North High, the county's only summer satellite for high schoolers, Bob Beard said last week. About 20 to 30 other students at all grade levels are taking classes at the school to develop their English-language skills, Beard said.

According to Beard, coordinator of alternative programs for the county school system, summer school numbers have increased as schools' standards have become more rigorous.

"I think the state of Maryland had kids' attention that graduation is important, and they aren't interested in falling behind," Beard said.

Beard said last week 43 students could graduate through summer school. The numbers include both early graduates, as well as students who failed classes their first time around, Beard said.

Beside North High, a number of the county's middle and elementary schools also offer school over the summer. They include Bester, Boonsboro, Eastern, Fountaindale, Hancock, Lincolnshire, Old Forge and Winter Street elementary schools and Clear Spring, Boonsboro, E. Russell Hicks, Western Heights, Smithsburg and Springfield middle schools, school spokesman Will Kauffman said.

Not all students at lunch at North High expressed enthusiasm about the extra education.

One boy summed up in one word how he would rather spend his summer mornings: "Sleeping."

Malone and other educators working the summer said they find some students actually are more focused this time of year.

"I've got seniors, so they're very focused. Five of these guys are going to be graduating at the end of summer school because this is the last class they need," Malone said.

Copies of "Beowolf" and grammar guides covered students' desks. Two boys in the back stifled yawns, their heads against a movable wall behind them.

School, which began June 20, continues through July 28. Students meet four days a week from 7:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., Beard said.

Williamsport High School student Elizabeth Hoffman said two weeks ago, she had to attend only a few weeks of summer school - just enough time to push her geometry average from 68 percent to 70 percent.

Danya Hoffman, Elizabeth's mother, said her daughter found out she fell just short of passing just before graduation rehearsal. She is proud Elizabeth decided to give it one more shot, instead of ending her high school career one credit shy.

"That was kind of what I was afraid of - that she might just give up because she was really looking forward to graduating and all that," Hoffman said.

Not all students are eager to give up their breaks, Springfield Middle School principal David Reeder said. Convincing them to enroll in summer school sometimes takes a "real sell job," he said. The remediation courses for students who have struggled during the school year are free for elementary- and middle-school students; high schoolers pay $100 to make up a class, Beard said.

"To have 19 days on top of their 180, some of the kids just need more time," Reeder said.

At Greencastle-Antrim High School in Pennsylvania, putting in the time during the summer means having more flexibility during the year.

According to assistant principal Edward Rife, interest in a free "third-semester" program continues to grow as students rack up credits during the summer to free up their schedules during the year.

About 70 students are taking at least one of the high school's extra offerings this year, while about 20 students are enrolled in summer remediation, Rife said.

"These are kids who have failed a course, and whether they wanted to, or their parents wanted them to, have paid to remediate that course, so they don't fall behind," Rife said.

Summer remediation at Greencastle-Antrim costs $155 per student, Rife said.

For some students, such as 17-year-old Elizabeth, the price of waking up early is worth it. The Williamsport High School senior will graduate at the end of this month - if she can pass geometry.

"I'm just going to take a break for awhile, get a job, then I'll go to college," Elizabeth said.

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