Summer school: Catch up, move ahead or learn new skills

EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

August 13, 2006|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV

Howard County schools officially closed their doors June 15, but 4,611 students continue to come to school throughout the summer.

Some attend to get a jump on their classmates; others use the summer to repeat subjects, while a number use the school system's summer camps to participate in enriching activities.

The programs ranged from $54 a week to $450 a credit hour, but educators and students say the programs were worth it.

For example, 250 students took part in the Gifted and Talented Summer Institute for Talent Development at Cradlerock School. The program was open to incoming first- through 12th-graders.

"There are a variety of offerings that include both extensions of the curriculum and a lot of areas that might not be part of the school year," said Penny Zimring, instructional facilitator for the system's gifted-and-talented education program.

"They are for kids who want to enroll and want to learn high-level skills and increase their talents in a certain area," said Zimring. "Students have the opportunity to have enrichment experiences that are not regularly provided during the school year. Students can develop their talents over the summer."

One of the most popular classes, "Money, Banking and Wall Street," allows students to invest a hypothetical $100,000 and track their gains and loses.

"They get to see what drives the American economy," Zimring said.

In another class, students learn about music from around the world.

"The focus is on music and culture," Zimring said.

Other types of programs had significant enrollment, as well.

At Cedar Lane School and Lime Kiln Middle School, 286 students attended special-education programs.

The Regional Early Childhood Center and Preschool-Kindergarten Program, which is a five-week program for preschoolers and kindergartners with and without individual education plans, attracted 778 children.

There also were 1,298 students who were required to attend classes for Academic Intervention Programs, while 1,033 students attended comprehensive summer school to master a subject or get ahead for the coming year.

The system also offered several specialized enrichment programs.

The Black Student Achievement Program offered a four-week summer learning camp at Wilde Lake High School for second- through fifth-graders. Another program, Student Enrichment and Accelerating Achievement of Leadership, was offered for sixth- through 12th-graders. A total of 215 students participated in both programs.

Erica Waters, one of three directors of the programs, said it was rewarding to see the light in the kids' eyes.

"Everybody wants to be here," she said.

Blair Waters, 11, a pupil at Harper's Choice, said his favorite was the hip-hop dance portion of the camp he attended.

"It's inspiring to me, and I can do it in front of the mirror," said Blair, who was labeled the best male dancer in the class by his instructors. "I learned a lot of different things."

Shell a candidate

Robin Shell, Howard County's first school ombudsman, is seeking an additional title: Prince George's County Board of Education member.

Shell, 44, submitted her candidacy July 3 and is battling four other candidates for the District 1 seat.

"I'm running because I have a vested interest," said Shell. Four of her five children attend Prince George's County schools.

Shell, who works Monday through Thursday in Howard County and earns $67,200 a year, said she is confident that she would be able to balance her workload in Howard County with Board of Education duties in Prince George's County.

"Most board members work and have Board of Education responsibilities," Shell said. "I imagine I would do it the same as most board members."

Howard County school system lawyer Mark Blom said that Shell is allowed to seek a position in Prince George's County and, if she is elected, she can hold both positions.

Shell stressed that she remains loyal to her work in Howard County.

"My goal is never to shortchange the people of Howard County," Shell said. "I'm very committed to making sure that policies and procedures are fairly implemented. That's my job. Those families that I've helped would agree that I keep my focus. Those who I have worked with would say I've kept my focus."

School board tour

Howard school board members had hard hats ready last week as they toured seven schools under construction.

The board was joined Wednesday by Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin; Ken Roey, executive director of facilities and management; and Bruce Gist, construction program manager for a five-hour tour that included an Ellicott City elementary school, Howard High School, and Bushy Park, Centennial Lane, Running Brook, Dayton Oaks, Triadelphia Ridge elementaries.

"Howard High is going to be gorgeous when it is finished," said board member Mary Kay Sigaty. "I was surprised by how far the northeast elementary school [in Ellicott City] has progressed. I'm pleased."

Sigaty and the other board members also went to Dayton Oaks Elementary School, which is scheduled to open for the first time this month.

"It looks ready to go," Sigaty said. "They're looking in great shape."

In addition to touring the schools, the group met with administrators from each school and construction workers.

"People have worked awfully hard this summer, awfully hard," Sigaty said.

And what about the hard hats?

"We had them in the truck," Sigaty said with a laugh. It turned out we didn't need them."

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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