Class may not be in session year-round, but Wauwatosa School District's summer school program is trying to create that effect. And never mind the old train of thought that summer school is only for remediation. These days, students are flocking to its programs for enrichment and rigor.
"We're always trying to find ways to meet our children's changing needs," said Bill Anderson, supervisor of special programming and principal of summer school and also Wauwatosa Montessori school. "Our view is, we can provide some mechanism for (students) to access summer credits without being here every day. We're exploring those ideas."
Under Dr. Phil Ertl's leadership as superintendent, Anderson said summer school has evolved to provide enrichment, acceleration and remediation programming to the community.
Online and hybrid programming has also evolved the last three years. The model is especially popular among high school students who are busy with sports or other extracurricular activities and don't want to be in a seat for coursework.
High schoolers have also flocked to electives offered in the summer, such as oral communication, financial literacy, physical education, online economics and summer geometry.
"I know students are really appreciating those opportunities in the summer that we hadn't been offering in the classes," Anderson said.
Since 2009, the Wauwatosa School District has seen marked increase in summer school enrollment among both residents and nonresidents.
In 2009, 2,470 students enrolled in summer school. That number jumped to 3,089 in 2010, up to 3,262 in 2011, 3706 in 2012 and 3,790 in 2013.
"Our mark of success has been the number of families and students steadily increasing over the past five years," Anderson said.
This year, 125 courses (junior kindergarten through 12) were offered for summer enrollment, and 102 courses are currently running. Enrollment directly dictates which courses will run or not run for the summer.
The students' interest in more rigorous classes during the summer may be the result of an accelerated track that was started at the middle-school level five years ago, Anderson said. Now, "that's coming into the high school level," he added.
There's also special attention being paid to the elementary schools. Last year, Madison Elementary was the pilot school to host a summer math and reading program for students who needed additional support in these subject areas. This summer, the math and reading program expanded to include Madison, Jefferson, Washington, Roosevelt and Eisenhower elementary schools.
"After looking at the data of those who participated (last year), we saw overall improvement in their performance," Anderson said.
The district decided to expand programming to the additional elementary schools to expand the sample size. This summer, 104 students are being served by the program.
"This will provide the district with a sample size we can use to draw more significant conclusions," he added.
But even as summer programming seems to increase in rigor, it also maintains a balance with the best part of summer — vacation.
Depending on the course level, classes traditionally end at either 11:30 a.m. or 12:35 p.m. to encourage student participation in Wauwatosa Recreation Department activities.
"Summer adventure club is set up to supplement summer school," said Mike Wick, director of the Wauwatosa Recreation Department. "If you send your kids to summer school in the morning, adventure club picks up right after at lunch and afternoon activities."
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