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'Third Semester' is Big Draw in District 219

The summer school program has an uptick in students for various reasons.

As the "third semester" for many students gets under way, the summer school program at  is experiencing a welcomed increase in its numbers.

More than 1,800 of the district’s roughly 6,000 students are taking classes during the six weeks of summer school. There are 350 to 400 more students compared to last summer, said Ed Murphy, the district’s summer school principal. 

All classes, except driver education, take place at Niles North High School. Most have a stringent attendance policy, allowing only one or two absences, depending on how the class is scheduled. 

Superintendent Nanciann Gatta said she was pleased with the growth in summer school attendance, but she wanted even more students to take advantage of the educational opportunities.

“The board has made a lot of effort over the last two years to have a robust summer school. We’re making progress,” Gatta said at the June 27 school board meeting. “But we’re not there yet.”

The students are taking classes for a variety of reasons, Murphy said. Some are making up credits for classes they failed or did not complete--perhaps the most common reason. Others are attending to get required courses, such as consumer education, out of their way to free up time in the coming school year.

The more ambitious are working to get ahead by taking algebra, for example, before their freshman year so they can start with geometry. Such a move would put them on track to take calculus during their senior year. There about 100 students doing that, Murphy said.

Still others are taking classes designed to help them step up a level so they can attend honors or advanced placement (AP) courses. Some are attending simply for enrichment, using the session for such things as art.

Lois Wisniewski, the science department chairwoman, said classes such as Preparation for Honors Biology–offered to incoming freshmen–and Preparation for AP Chemistry familiarized students with the expected level of work and enabled them to get comfortable with a new topic.

The preparatory classes are “hybrid” classes, in which students only report to school on designated days and then complete their work online.

Wisniewski said teachers involved faced a big challenge. She noted teachers must change the way they impart information because of the limited amount of time in the abbreviated summer session.

For teenagers who are looking to get ahead, step up or even make up a credit, counselors know what classes the students are taking and will make adjustments to the student's fall schedule based on the summer school results, Gatta said. However, she acknowledges that changing a student's status can create scheduling complications.

Summer school classes started June 17, and run through July 29--with a break for the Fourth of July holiday. The new school year is scheduled to begin Aug. 22 for teachers and Aug. 23 for students.

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