Summer school not just for make-up classes anymore
Teacher Jessica Hirsch works with students in the Me Doll class during the Worlds of Wonder summer-school program June 18 at Washington Elementary School in Park Ridge. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 22, 2012 7:40PM
School’s out for summer — but not for everyone.
After the final bell of the 2011-12 school year rang earlier this month, hundreds of Park Ridge children and teenagers headed right back to the classroom, largely by choice.
Summer school is a popular place to be in Park Ridge. In School District 64 about 840 children entering first- through seventh-grade have signed up for Worlds of Wonder, the district’s annual summer program that offers more than 70 different classes, from vocal music, pre-algebra and cooking to digital movie-making and newspaper reporting.
Enrollment is especially high this year, according to Diane Betts, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. A majority of the courses are offered for enrichment and are designed to be enjoyable.
“It’s a fun way to keep busy for the first six weeks of the summer,” Betts said of the Worlds of Wonder program.
The program is offered to District 64 students and also children enrolled in local private schools, or who are home-schooled. Classes to help children catch up or improve their skills in math and English are also available and may be recommended to those who require them.
Some of the most popular courses include “Me Dolls,” in which children in kindergarten through third grade create a doll that looks like they do, cooking classes and digital photography. Children tend to gravitate to hands-on activities, Betts said, and sewing, computer graphics and scrap-booking are also well-attended.
“It’s meant to offer them some different experiences,” she explained of the variety.
Worlds of Wonder courses are covered through tuition and some require parents to pay minimal materials fees, as well. Tuition is $100 to $120 for three-week classes and $200 to $240 for six-week classes, depending upon when registration occurred.
“From a financial standpoint, it’s intended to be self-sufficient,” Betts said of the program.
The classroom is where many local high school students can be found this summer, as well. At Maine South in Park Ridge about 1,000 students, just less than half of the school’s total enrollment, are taking some kind of summer-school class, Assistant Principal Rose Garlasco said.
Maine Township District 207’s summer school differs from that of the elementary and middle-school program in that it is largely aimed at helping students get required courses out of the way so that during the regular school year they can focus on more electives or other classes needed for graduation, Garlasco said. A smaller number of students, no more than 100, are enrolled because they failed a course or are trying to get a better grade the second time around, she added.
“From my perspective, people are here because they want to be here,” Garlasco said.
Students sign up in large numbers for world history, U.S. history, health and oral communications, four classes required to graduate in District 207. Other classes offered at Maine South, in addition to Maine East across town, include four levels of English, algebra and geometry, government and Constitution, keyboarding, consumer education and driver’s education. The one elective course offered is ceramics.
For incoming freshmen who did not score at grade level in math and English, a pre-academy course is offered at both schools. In addition Maine East and Maine South offer career-exploration courses, three-week programs that help students become acquainted with careers in health care, engineering, and business and law. In the business-and-law class, for example, students visit places including the Chicago Board of Trade, Kraft and Cook County Circuit Court.
All summer courses in District 207 require tuition, though financial assistance is available for some students. The fee for a one-credit course is $410 and driver’s education is $350.
The downside to summer school, according to Garlasco, is the time factor. Taking a class that is normally held over four months in just six weeks, four mornings a week, means “there’s not a lot of flexibility in terms of absences.”
“If you make the commitment to summer school, you just have to be here,” she said.