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Summer program wraps up

West Linn High School’s summer program ended last week, after four weeks of marathon classes that saw more than 250 students accomplish a semester’s worth of work in only 16 days.

The summer program runs for four weeks every summer, from early to late July. Kaleb McKern, the summer program’s administrator, says that preparation for the program begins months in advance.

“Our summer school coordinator Holly Scheid starts preparing for Summer School early each spring, setting up the website for registration, communicating with teachers, students and parents about the courses and answering countless questions that arise,” McKern said.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: KALEB MCKERN - Harrison Hart, a student in Jonathan Davies Biology/Life Science course, watches for birds behind West Linn High School during this year's summer program.

Students generally attend summer school for one of three reasons. If they are preparing to transition into high school in the fall, students take high school preparatory courses.

“Incoming ninth grade students sign up to take this course each summer to brush up on algebra skills and to prepare for the school year,” said McKern. The program also offers a “jump start” class, which McKern says is intended to “prepare students with study skills and support as they enter high school.”

If students are taking a required class that they can’t squeeze into their schedule during the school year, they take “go ahead” courses. “These courses typically move very fast and can be challenging,” said McKern.

And if students come to summer school to make up a failed course, they take “credit recovery” classes. “The credit recovery courses provide many students with the opportunity to stay on course for graduation and improve their overall GPA as they progress through high school,” McKern said. Students typically earn a half a credit for completing a credit recovery course, as opposed to the one credit they would earn for completing the class during the school year.

Regardless of the sort of class students take, they’re in for a busy four weeks. Students spend four days per week in classes for credit recovery courses and five days per week for “go ahead” classes, with most classes lasting for three and a half hours per day.

The summer program began 10 years ago to help students whose schedules prevent them from getting the credits they need during the year. During the year, West Linn High School offers “early bird” courses that run from 7:30-8:30 a.m., and which are targeted at students who want to get ahead on their requirements (perhaps to earn a lighter class load their senior year) or to make up for failed classes. But some students who need to take these early courses are kept by sports or other commitments from making the classes.

“So (the administration) thought, ‘Well, why not a summer school?’” said Sandi Gray, who has been at WLHS for 23 years. Gray is something of a polymath: during the year, she teaches social studies, including history, civics and psychology. This summer, Gray taught English and history credit recovery courses. And each of these courses has the potential to make up for multiple classes, with the history class counting toward students’ world or American history requirements, depending on individual students’ needs.

According to Gray, the summer program has grown larger over the years. “It’s always been a popular program, but as the years have gone by, we’ve simply added more of the classes that students need,” Gray said. Credit recovery courses were the only ones initially offered by the summer program. But the “go ahead” courses have proven especially popular, with nearly 200 of the program’s students enrolled in these classes.

Gray says that she enjoys teaching summer courses for several reasons. “We have smaller classes than we do during the regular school year,” she said. “And the kids are a lot of fun.”

She also noted that students are often more dedicated during the summertime, which may be traced in part to the program’s cost: WLHS students generally pay $200 per course during the summer session, while students from outside the district can expect to pay $250 per course.

“So it’s a strong commitment,” Gray says.

Emmett Avery and Alisha Pepperling were students in Gray’s history recovery course. Avery said that he also took a Wellness course this summer, which involves a mixture of physical education and health classwork. “I took Wellness because with Band, I couldn’t fit it into my schedule anywhere,” he said.

Between the two courses and his evening job at the Oregon Golf Club, Avery has had a hectic month. “It’s hard to stay focused,” he said. But Avery also appreciates the summer program’s strict attendance policy, where students who miss more than two classes automatically fail the course. “It makes it so that you can’t really skip out on it,” he said. “You have to be present.”

Avery also noted that things have been manageable because summer courses involve more project-oriented assignments than during the school year. Pepperling said that she appreciated the project-oriented approach of summer courses as well. “I like how hands-on this class is,” she said. “In regular school, they really don’t do that as much as they do in summer school.”

Still, there is a silver lining to the end of summer school and the month that participants will have before the fall semester begins. Gray and her students had similar responses when asked what they plan to do once the program ends. “Sleep in,” said Avery without hesitation.

“Sleep in a bit,” said Gray. “Not having to hear that alarm is very nice.”