Summer school used to be for students completing courses they failed

Chilliwack kids give up summer for school

Summer school is no longer just a place to complete failed classes; many students are now using it to get an edge in their education.

Fourteen-year-old Samir Rehmtulla is giving up a month of his summer break to get ahead in school.

The Vedder middle school student is taking English 9 and Science 9 this month through the Chilliwack school district’s summer learning program – not because he has to, but because he wants to.

The straight-A student, who will be taking an accelerated English program next year that will have him completing both the Grade 9 and 10 curriculums, figured it would give him a leg up come September.

“I just thought this would give me a good head start,” he said. “I know the workload’s going to be quite a bit heavier compared to Grade 8, and by getting a head start on these subjects it will give me more time to focus on the other subjects.”

Samir isn’t the only student looking to get ahead.

This year the school district has 617 students registered in its grades 1-9 summer school offerings; 3,564 students are taking Grade 10-12 courses at Fraser Valley Distance Education over the summer months; and for the first time, the elementary spots are full and have a waiting list.

According to summer learning vice principal Paul Allanson, several of his students are there because they want to be, not just because they failed a course as was the norm with summer school in years past.

“It’s giving them a sneak peak into what the learning expectations are going to be,” said Allanson.

At Fraser Valley Distance Ed, while some of the students are carry overs from the school year, others are specifically taking summer courses, like physical education, biology, English, math and planning 10 to “make room in their time table for electives they are interested in,” said vice principal Sharon Bernard.

Taking courses ahead of schedule is an option that was made easier when the B.C. government made summer school free for all students in 2008. In Chilliwack, the school district embraced the move.

In addition to providing core courses, summer learning features two-week preview courses in areas of literacy and mathematics for students in grades 1-6. A summer-specific planning 10 course was also offered at FVDES this year, of which 161 students took advantage. As well, a math 10 prep course was offered to Grade 9 students outlining the different concepts taught in foundations 10 and pre-calculus 10 to better assist students in choosing a suitable math path for Grade 10.

“What I have heard from former Grade 10 students is they didn’t expect math 10 foundations and pre-calculus to be so challenging,” said Allanson. “This gives them a sneak peak into the year ahead.”

Parent Marianne Pastoor enrolled her youngest sons into the Be Fit for Lit elementary program in hopes they wouldn’t experience a summertime lapse in their reading and writing abilities.

Pastoor’s sons Jordan, 8, and Hayden, 9, have struggled with school from the beginning. Jordan, who has a speech impediment, is two years behind his grade level despite his mom regularly working with him after school and on weekends. After seeing how Be Fit for Lit helped Hayden last year, Pastoor made sure to put both sons in this year.

“Hayden’s reading improved quite a bit and his writing got neater and more coherent; he’s finally caught up to his reading level,” said Pastoor. “I’m just trying to keep their memories fresh.”

Student Chloe Newbury, who admitted she’d rather be with friends than in school, conceded her summer sacrifice will likely be worth it in the long run.

“I’m hoping to get an A in math instead of a C- next year and hopefully a higher mark in humanities too,” said Chloe, 13, who struggled in those courses last year. “I’m hoping that by doing this, I’ll be able to better understand it, I won’t struggle, it won’t be as hard.”

For Samir, “it’s not so bad. I’m only taking two subjects, so I’m still getting some free time to hang out with friends and play tennis.” And besides, “if you do well in school, you’re going to have a better chance at getting a good job out of school.”

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