Clovis Unified summer classes go online

More Clovis Unified students are going to summer school this year without being in a classroom.

The district, which was forced to slash 38% of its summer school budget, enrolled more students in independent study and online classes this summer.

In addition, this is the first year that the district's online school was available for summer courses. And, for students at one high school facing a schedule change, summer school became an attractive option.

This year, about 3,700 of the district's 4,300 summer high school students are working on their own.

In independent study, students visit their teachers once a week at Clark Intermediate School and are tested on work they received the previous week.

Clovis West junior Kelsie Castillo, who is taking U.S. history in independent study, said the program is demanding.

"It's a lot more work," said Kelsie, who has taken summer courses in a classroom setting each of the past two years and said she prefers them. "You have to be really determined and have the willpower to study."

Each packet of work takes 10 hours; students get two each week.

"If you honestly want to do good on the test, you need to spend 20 hours," she said.

The number of independent study students more than doubled, which means teachers are handling more students, said Gregory Lomack, the district's summer school administrator.

Lomack is confident that at least 90% will complete their independent summer studies, because high school counselors placed students they felt would be most successful in the program.

At the end of the summer school session, he said, the district will evaluate summer independent study.

Of the 300 students in the online school, about 90% are from Clovis East High School, where the school schedule will change from eight periods to six periods when the new school year starts in August.

Fewer class periods means students will get fewer elective options. So some are opting for summer school online classes, which will allow them to take an extra elective in the new school year.

Jared Despain and his twin sister, Rachel, are incoming Clovis East freshmen. They are taking health and geography online so they can get electives in the fall.

The workload is substantial, Jared said.

"It's the quantity of work and how much time it takes," he said. "It's how much they make you do for the deadline that's the only hard part."

For online courses, students do not visit their teachers. They have to be online each day by 10 a.m. and communicate with their teachers primarily through e-mail, video chat, texting or by phone.

If they must visit a teacher they can go to Clovis East High School's library on designated days, said Rob Darrow, principal of Clovis Online School, which will enroll 100 high school students in the fall.

"They don't have to come in, but they interact with teachers every day," he said.

Only 600 high school students are taking summer school classes at Clark Intermediate School -- about 25% of the number enrolled last year -- in complex subject matters such as physics, chemistry or algebra 2.

About 2,400 elementary and intermediate school students remain in a classroom setting, too. They are not eligible for independent study because more hands-on attention is required in earlier grades, district officials say.

Altogether, about 6,700 students are taking summer classes in elementary, junior high and high schools in the district, -- a decrease of about 8% from last year.

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