With a shorter summer break this year comes shorter summer school for Verona Area School District elementary and middle school students.
The lessons have taken place over two concurrent four-week sessions, Monday through Thursday, in recent years. But the recommendation Monday from Verona Area High School principal Pam Hammen and Sugar Creek Elementary School principal Todd Brunner, who oversee the programs, was to schedule one three-week session this summer for Monday through Friday.
The session would run July 8-26, leaving elementary and middle school students with one fewer day than they have in a normal summer.
Summer school for high school students would still be four weeks, Monday through Friday, because of requirements for hours of instruction for students to receive credit, Hammen explained. That session will run July 8 through Aug. 2.
Registration for both will be open April 17-26 at vasd.recdesk.com/community/home.
A presentation from Brunner and Hammen to the school board showed a slight drop in enrollment in 2018 compared to the previous two years, at 1,237 students to the 1,355 that enrolled in 2016. That drop comes entirely from the elementary school level, which had 600 students in 2018, down from 724 in 2016.
The administrators explained that teachers have shifted to “skill development” classes instead of “enrichment” classes, leaving teachers shifting to the former as the focus of the program changed.
“Part of the enrollment dip is some of the teachers who were enrichment teachers became skill development teachers, so slightly fewer enrichment offerings,” Hammen said.
She added that she would “not be surprised” to see the numbers drop again this year with the short summer, as school begins Aug. 23.
“It may pick up again the following summer,” she said.
Summer school is entirely voluntary, though Brunner said they specifically reach out to students for the skill development classes and talk with their families about how it could help their children. That voluntary attitude – for both staff and students – helps keep the atmosphere light.
Teachers also get to be more creative, he added, as “there is no curriculum, there are no standards at that time.”
In evaluating the program, Brunner and Hammen said they focus on avoiding drops rather than seeking huge growth in test levels for students. They weren’t able to measure that for the summer of 2018 because a different test was used at the end of 2017-18 than the beginning of 2018-19, but will measure the academic progress after this summer with the same test.
Board members encouraged administrators to seek out “creative” ways to reach students who can’t attend, like growing the online courses already offered or having ways for students who miss a day to catch up on their iPad at home.
“My preference has always been to have more summer school opposed to less,” said board member Amy Almond. “Right now I don’t feel like we have enough time with them.
“I’d like to see us think outside the box a little bit.”