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Summer School Enrollment Continues Strong

Smaller classes that last for longer periods during the day give students the attention some need, a teacher says.

Though the economy , one place where residents of Fairfield County are not skimping is on their children’s education.

A sampling of school districts in the county bucked the theory there could be a decline in summer school enrollment because of the economy.

The extraordinarily harsh winter and accumulation of snow days created an abnormally small window from the close of the regular school year and beginning of summer classes, but once the final grades were recorded, there was no reluctance in students enrolling.

“There was a slow start because of the extended school year,” said Robert McGrath, summer school principal in . “Everybody is concerned about the economy, so there was some wonder if that would have an effect. But, enrollment is where it was last year. There are graduation requirements, so if they don’t pass a class they have to make it up.”

In Fairfield, as in most districts, the summer school emphasis is on recovery over enrichment, meaning the majority of students on the high school level register to pass courses they either failed or did poorly in.

A Fairfield student must pass at least two of the four marking periods during the regular school year. If not, the class must be made up, and it isn’t cheap. A two-credit course runs $400 while a single credit course is $300.

In Westport, the cost depends on the course taken, while in Shelton the price is $375. Cost varies throughout the county.

“Summer school is not a money maker,” said Kevin Chavez, assistant director of the summer school program in . “The tuition is paying for the staff.”

Chavez said Shelton’s program on the high school level – there are also classes for the intermediate grades – is currently for recovery, which is for students to make up courses or re-take those they failed.

The elongated school year might have disrupted family vacations, but Chavez said Shelton parents shouldn’t be surprised to learn if one of their children must repeat a course.

“Parents are made aware ahead of time if their children are in danger,” Chavez said, adding the enrollment this summer is consistent with previous years.

McGrath said summer school helps some students grasp the material better because the classes are smaller leading to more attention from teachers.

“When you’re working with smaller groups, you can go into topics in more depth,” McGrath said. “And, with the classes being two hours, you know you’re going to participate. You’re going to be called on, so there’s incentive to do the reading.”

While the focus is on recovery in both Fairfield and Shelton, there’s a greater focus on enrichment in Westport, where students are able to actually put themselves in position to earn college credit.

Westport’s program began June 27 and will end August 5, with some courses ending August 12.

“We’re year round,” said Barbara Pitcher, director of adult and continuing education for Westport Public Schools.

At , Pitcher said some ambitious students can take advanced placement courses.

“I don’t know how many we have, but it is easily in double digits. Students can take these classes in the summer in lieu of during the school year.”

Doing so enables them to take college prep classes during the regular year in which they can obtain university or college credits.

“Many students can walk out of here with several three-credit classes,” Pitcher said.

If you’re going to be studying during the summer, that’s the way to go.

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