Hunter Thomas is getting a real taste of Spanish before he officially takes the seventh grade language class next fall.
His summer school class at Pilgrim Park Middle School, Ay Caramba, combines an introduction to the language with cooking.
It's a perfect example of how the Elmbrook School District has infused fun into education.
"I think it's a great introduction to the language, and he's having fun," said his mom, Jamie Thomas. "Summer school is a great way to get comfortable with a course before you begin it."
That's exactly the intent of many of the summer offerings, said Dixon Principal Jeanne Siegenthaler, the Pilgrim Park-site summer school coordinator.
"There are a lot of fun enrichment programs for K through eight," Siegenthaler said. "There are computer classes and also music classes."
Mary Washbush, director of curriculum and student learning and manager of all summer school programs, said summer program growth has resulted from a planned effort.
"We saw summer school opportunities as an untapped market," Washbush said. "We studied what other successful programs were doing around the area."
The district began to introduce enrichment classes, but with the intent of linking the experiences to academic subjects.
Elementary and middle school courses include Fairytale Math, Scrapbook Storytime and Technology Camp in the kindergarten through eighth-grade curriculum. High school summer offerings tend to be subject-based, though Learning to Learn is designed to help students meet academic requirements in all subjects.
"We have tried to offer something for specific subjects as well as giving students an opportunity to participate in fun activities that are educational," Washbush said.
"There are a variety of reasons why students enroll," Washbush said, adding that some are looking to earn credit ahead of time or recover credit from past courses.
Enrollment has blossomed. Compared to last year, K-8 enrollment increased by 200 to 1,258 while high school enrollment increased by 25 to 275.
Summer school also is offered to private and parochial students, Washbush said, pointing to another growing summer market.
High school summer programs alternate between Central and East. Pilgrim Park handles the lower grade program. A program helping pre-school youngsters get ready for a classroom environment is held at another elementary school site.
Washbush said consolidating programs at fewer sites provides an economy of scale for staffing, supplies and busing.
That consolidation is welcome by parents like Meghan Olsen, whose three children attend Pilgrim Park.
"I like the fact that I can take them all to the same school and even though traffic can be hectic, it works," Olsen said.
Summer school helps her family keep a reasonable routine.
"It gives them just enough structure to keep them in a routine, but they get to go swimming or (do) other things in the afternoon," Olsen said. "They get to have August off, and that's just enough time to have off from school."
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