Some are cool to summer classes

Motivating students is primary challenge, say Baltimore educators

July 14, 2004|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

David Shelton, 17, waited unhappily outside the front doors of Lake Clifton-Eastern High School for his summer physics class to start yesterday morning.

"I could be doing better things," the City College student said. "Like getting a job."

Shelton was one of more than 2,500 city high school students who showed up for summer school yesterday, as administrators scrambled to process last-minute enrollments, direct youngsters to the right classrooms and correct a mistaken announcement that students would receive free bus passes.

School officials said the makeup sessions were off to a smooth start, though yesterday was busy, one of many hectic days for administrators. Not only have they had to cope with switching some classes from Baltimore City Community College, they also have been hustling to hire extra teachers to accommodate nearly 1,000 more students than expected.

Some teachers who had applied for summer work were notified as late as Monday evening about their status. But administrators said it is not unusual for teachers to be hired late for summer school.

The four-week sessions are being offered only to high school students who failed a class or did not take a course they need to stay on track for graduation. Classes, which are being held at three sites, cost $150 each.

Kevin Parson, the administrator in charge of summer school at Lake Clifton-Eastern, said motivating students in the summer can be a challenge. "They'd probably rather be doing something else," Parson said. "But like I [told them], this is their chance to get it right."

Not all students seemed to get the message.

"I really don't want to be here," said Candace Smith, 16, as she stood with friends waiting to be summoned for an orientation session. She begins her junior year at Dunbar High in the fall and said she failed geometry because "I was just being lazy, I guess."

Sitting on steps nearby, Travon Curry said he does not mind having to spend his mornings in class because he usually does not hang out with friends until afternoon. "It ain't really a problem," the 15-year-old Patterson High student said. "I'm just here to pass."

Earlier in the morning, Parson had been forced to deliver the news - disappointing to some students - that the school system would not be giving out free bus passes. Instead, he said, students would be able to obtain reduced-fare cards that would qualify them to pay $1.10 instead of $1.60 for a bus ride.

Confusion had resulted after Frank DeStefano, the high school officer for city schools, mistakenly said that students would receive free bus passes. That information was published in an article in yesterday's Sun.

Another source of consternation in recent weeks has been uncertainty over where certain summer classes would be held.

Students entering the 12th grade were first told to report to Baltimore City Community College. But after the college's president resigned in May, the school system abandoned the plan, which had aimed to give incoming high school seniors a taste of higher education.

School officials, who have handled summer rosters of as many as 3,500 high school students, said they were able to divert incoming seniors to three high schools that had been scheduled for summer classes for the rest of the students.

Summer school was delayed a week as a result of the change of locations, said Vanessa Pyatt, a school system spokeswoman.

Those glitches aside, things appeared normal at Lake Clifton-Eastern yesterday.

"The hallways presently are quiet. We have people where they're supposed to be," Parson said, taking a break after giving two orientation speeches and helping to usher students to class.

As a few stragglers arrived, teachers sought to equip students with materials and textbooks, and to begin lessons.

Teacher Valerie Stamper was disappointed to find she would have to conduct her algebra class in a science lab for the rest of the summer.

Her 19 students were scattered around the classroom, some seated at desks and others at lab stations.

The only other room available to Stamper had been damaged by a water leak.

"It has a smell, so I'd rather stay where I am," Stamper said. "We'll make do."

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