While kids absorbed in summer bliss pack swimming pools this month, eight area schools bustle with pupils learning everything from history to physics.
More than 2,500 elementary through high school students are spending part of their summer in the classroom and at least 300 of those are doing so by choice—not to make up for failed credits but to get a jump-start in math, history, science or English ahead of their peers.
A class of rising seventh-graders at Tuscarora High School this week hunched over textbooks and worksheets to label the parts of three-dimensional shapes.
“I know a lot of kids wouldn’t want to be here right now,” Sri Vaishnari Rayarao, a rising Farmwell Station seventh-grade student, said taking a break in her pre-Algebra course. She chose to take the four-week course—and pay the $500 tuition—because she wants to be ready to take an accelerated Algebra course when school starts this fall.
“I like a challenge,” Sri Vaishnari said. “That’s just me.”
Kim Jackson, summer middle school principal and math department chair at Farmwell Station Middle School, has seen more students take the accelerated summer classes since one of the levels of math was eliminated in sixth grade.
This summer’s pre-Algebra course is at capacity with 21 students, and Jackson expects the course will continue to fill up in coming years.
“I think as long as we have just two levels of math in sixth grade, more students will take that extra opportunity in the summer,” she said, adding that it’s important for the school district to continue to offer accelerated summer options. “To me it’s a good example of Loudoun County meeting the needs of all their children.”
Budget cuts kept Loudoun County Public Schools from offering summer school in 2010, but brought it back last summer. Summer school costs the school system just over $700,000 after tuition is collected. Student tuition starts at $325 if the student earns course credits.
For high school students, the reasons to take summer school run the gamut, according to David Spage, director of high school education in Loudoun. Of the roughly 1,300 students enrolled this summer, some need to make up for failed credits, others want to get a difficult course out of the way and still others are there to pull ahead of their peers in their studies—maybe with an eye on the sought-after valedictorian title.
Spage remembers taking a summer chemistry course when he was in high school to free up his schedule during the school year to take two journalism courses.
“There are more and more things they want to be involved in in high school and if they can knock a course out in the summer, that’s great,” he said.
Elementary school is the only summer program that is just for students recommended by their teachers to get extra help to catch them up with their peers. This summer, 1,194 students are enrolled.
“We’re trying to fill in those academic gaps,” W. Michael Martin, director of Loudoun’s elementary education, said. “Our job is to try to make sure these students are ready to be very successful when they get to their next grade level.”