Sandi Willis speaks candidly about why she is retaking senior-year English at night school. She simply did not want to read the Shakespearean plays assigned to her.
"I thought I could pass without doing it, and I was wrong," said Sandi, a 17-year-old senior at Southern High School.
Sandi was supposed to retake English 12 at South River High's evening high school program. But the site was full, so she registered at the county's newest site, at Annapolis High School. County officials opened the fifth site Tuesday, the second in two years, because of increased demand, said Nelson C. Horine II, principal of the evening high school program.
The number of students in evening high school rose from 736 in the 2002-2003 school year to 851 last year. Part of that increase can be attributed to the opening of a new site at Meade High last year, Horine said. The county also operates evening high school at Glen Burnie, Northeast and South River high schools.
Horine noted two reasons for the increased demand for evening classes: More students want to work during the day, and more students with learning disabilities or special needs benefit from the smaller class sizes and the lack of distractions of conventional school life.
"I think it's more of an awareness on the part of students that they have the option," Horine said.
Then there are students such as Shahida and Rojina Akter, who emigrated from Bangladesh two years ago and are grappling with the transition from their native Bengali to English. The sisters, who live in Crofton, registered Tuesday afternoon to retake English 12.
Although they seemed to speak English well enough, their skills could not carry them through the fall semester of a class heavy on Shakespearean plays and medieval literature. Rojina, 18, and Shahida, 20, must pass the class to graduate in May.
Rojina Akter said she loves Annapolis High and is glad to have a second chance at the course. She said she would not have been allowed to retake a failed course in Bangladesh and would not have received the personal attention she gets from American teachers.
"I didn't get the opportunity to talk to teachers" in Bangladesh, Akter said.
Statistics show they are likely to get their diplomas. About 85 percent of evening high school students pass, Horine said. The remainder drop out of the program or fail again.
Annapolis High became a pilot site after county officials tried to determine why so few students from the Annapolis area were enrolling in evening high school. They found that students had trouble finding transportation to the South River site, Horine said. Guidance counselors at Annapolis High were concerned that their students did not have access.
About 20 students - most of whom attend day classes at Annapolis High - have enrolled in the new program at the school. Principal Donald Lilley said he expects more to enroll once they review their report cards. Report cards went out last week, and students were expected to get them by Friday.
Enrollment usually rises countywide once seniors realize that they need to make up a course to graduate on time. Fall semester enrollment was 400, and Horine expects about 500 students to sign up this semester.
Evening High School classes generally run from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. four days a week. At Annapolis High, the classes will be held from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. twice a week but will be expanded once the program becomes more established.
The one-on-one attention helps students, Lilley said Tuesday as he walked past a geometry class with three students.
"We want them to know we are here," he said.
Nate Poerstel, 18, a senior at Annapolis High, is retaking English 12 because he missed too many classes during the fall semester. Now that the class is in the evening, rather than first period, he thinks he will have no trouble passing.
"It's more convenient," Poerstel said.