Now that Newton Summer Adventure is the biggest show in town, Columbia’s older and much smaller summer school program has found a way to coexist.
Summer Enrichment, Columbia’s tuition-based morning summer school program, used to hold two back-to-back sessions in the summer. This year, however, the second session was moved back until after Newton Summer Adventure ended. As a result, enrollment for the second session has been even larger than expected.
“It’s always larger in the second session because it’s in the middle of the summer,” said Cara Ross, director of Summer Enrichment. “But because we waited until Newton finished, and I think it’s been even larger.”
After the district introduced the Newton program last summer, Summer Enrichment enrollment plummeted. Ross said that about 1,000 students participated in the summer of 2003, but that only 400 participated the following summer. However, Ross said enrollment is on the rise again after the district moved the second session, allowing students to participate in both programs.
“As we hoped, the numbers crept back up this year, and we hope they will continue to do so,” she said.
Ali Khreis, 6, decorates a mask during the Puppetry and Mask Making class last week at Summer Enrichment at Smithton Middle School.
The first enrichment session this summer, held June 13 to July 1 at Fairview Elementary School, had an enrollment of about 130 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students. After the Newton program ended, about 324 students enrolled in the second session, which runs from July 18 to Aug. 5 at Smithton Middle School.
Ross said that because Summer Enrichment is a half-day program, it doesn’t meet the requirements to receive state aid and doesn’t bring in any money to the district, as the Newton program does. However, Ross said it is not likely the program will be cut.
Newton Summer Adventure, a tuition-free summer program in Columbia and other school districts nationwide, had an enrollment of about 5,700 students this summer. The program, which ended July 15, offers students monetary incentives for attendance.
Mary Furness, whose 7-year-old son, Zach Cunning, has participated in the program for the past two years, said her family chose Summer Enrichment over Newton because of the wide variety of courses.
“Different kids operate at different levels,” Furness said. “That’s why Summer Enrichment works so well — there are so many things to choose from.”
The program offers students a wide variety of courses designed and taught by Columbia teachers. Students have the opportunity to take one or two courses during each session, such as Puppetry and Mask Making and Summer Cinema. The program also offers some reinforcement courses in core subjects such as reading and math.
“What’s special is that it can be personalized to the child’s experience,” Ross said. “It’s not a blanket academic program. They can pick out classes they’re interested in.”
Marilyn Cummins, whose 8-year-old son, William Fandek, is now in his second summer with the program, said one reason she prefers Summer Enrichment is because there is no attendance incentive, as there is with the Newton program. She said her son still enjoys summer school without the incentive.
“He gets up every morning and can’t wait to be there,” Cummins said. “We’re there because we want to be there — the classes are enjoyable and imaginative. … I don’t know what else I could ask for.”
Ross said teachers brainstorm class ideas and develop their own curriculum. She said the course offerings change slightly every year as new teachers bring new ideas to the program.
Marietta Monroe, who teaches a class called Science Mysteries to second- and third-graders, said she looked at past curricula and researched activities — like making invisible ink — when developing the class. She said the student response has been very positive.
“I think the thing I like best is the kids are very enthusiastic,” she said. “I’ve been amazed with how much they know.”
Furness said she also chose the Summer Enrichment program because it offers courses in Spanish and German, which are not offered through Newton or during the regular school year for elementary students. She said with today’s global economy, it’s important for students to learn another language at a young age.
“The younger they learn it, the better they learn it, and the better they retain it,” Furness said.
Tuition is $85 for each two-hour course and is used for teacher salaries, supplies and administrative overhead, Ross said. Some scholarships are available based on a student’s financial need.
Cummins said the program is well worth the price.
“He’s getting a fabulous education and it’s such a bargain,” she said. “I don’t consider it child care. It’s a place to learn and grow.”