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School year continues for some WCPS students

July 05, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Quenesha Jackson will not be spending the summer lying by the pool or relaxing at home.

Instead, the 15-year-old is attending summer school, hoping to get an extra course credit and graduate from high school early.

Quenesha is an incoming freshman at South Hagerstown High School and one of about 130 Washington County Public Schools students participating in a summer transition program for soon-to-be ninth-graders, according to Mike Chilcutt, a summer school coordinator.

There are about 2,000 students in all grades enrolled in free summer school courses this year. The total Washington County Public Schools budget for summer school this year is $736,000, with $554,000 going to salaries and personnel costs, $92,000 spent on instructional materials and $90,000 going to transportation, officials said.

Elementary school



Each of Washington County's public elementary schools has a summer school program, and each site averages about 40 students, said Michelle Talbert-Smith, assistant principal at Pangborn Elementary and head of the summer school program for elementary schools.

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Talbert-Smith said the exact number of elementary school students enrolled in summer school will not be known until the end of the summer, when the Washington County Board of Education receives a report.

The duration of the summer school program, length of the day and the students that participate are determined by elementary school principals, she said.

The main focus this summer is on students in kindergarten through second grade, Talbert-Smith said.

"It is for students who are working below grade level," she said. "Some schools choose to target a different set of (students) ... those who are on the cusp or working barely at grade level. They wanted to give them a little push. It's up to the school to determine the students they selected to participate."

All Title I schools, which have a large population of low-income students, incorporate the Claud Kitchens Outdoor School at Fairview into their summer school programs, and all other schools have that option. Transportation is provided for students at Title I schools.

Middle school



Each of the county's middle schools is offering summer school, and Director for Middle School Education Dave Reeder says about 500 students are enrolled.

Summer school for middle school students begins today and will end July 23.

Reeder said students are recruited for summer programs based on their performance on state tests.

"We invite students who need reading instruction or math," he said. "That's the primary thing, to get students who are having difficulty and need additional time. One hundred and eighty days (in the school year) aren't enough time for them to get proficient in reading and math."

The summer school day runs from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and includes four, one-hour classes and a brunch. Courses rotate, but students have reading, math and physical education every day, Reeder said.

The theme for summer school this year is "Character Counts," and the curriculum includes lessons on character.

Reeder said administrators try to enroll as many fifth-graders as possible in summer school to help them make a smooth transition into their new schools.

"Summer school is there to give students additional time that they need to learn because not every student learns at the same rate," he said. "Our whole mantra is that all children can learn. It just takes some children more time than others."

High school



About 500 high school students are enrolled in summer school, which is offered at North Hagerstown, South Hagerstown, Smithsburg, Boonsboro and Williamsport high schools, Chilcutt said.

There are about 130 incoming freshmen enrolled in a transition program for new high school students, he said.

Students are selected for the program based on observations from school personnel who determine which incoming ninth-graders might need extra help making the transition into high school, he said.

"They'll walk into the door in August with a high school credit already," Chilcutt said.

Students participate in field trips, listen to guest speakers and learn what to expect in high school.

Quenesha, who is enrolled in the transition program, said summer school was fun, and said she's using the summer months to earn an extra high school credit so she can graduate early and enroll in college.

Last week she heard from a guest speaker about the county's Evening High School and Washington County Technical High School.

Shawndell Doleman, 14, graduated from eighth grade this year, but says she is unsure where she will attend high school. She is enrolled in the summer transition program and said she was interested in attending the technical high school after listening to last week's guest.

Shawndell said she wants to be a pediatrician and believes she will benefit from enrolling in the school's health-occupations courses.

Students also started reading a book by James Patterson called "Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment."

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