Summer school keeps students studying

The arrival of summer heralds an extended break from school for most Mercer Island children and teenagers. But thanks to Mercer Island School District Associate Superintendent Kathy Morrison, students looking to catch up or get ahead on school work over the summer can enroll in one of MISD’s summer school programs.

The last day of classes was June 18, but the very next day, students were arriving at Crest Learning Center and greeting teacher Patricia Malastesta and school adminstrator Leta Frish at the door. The courses mark the beginning of four programs offered by the school district for summer school.

About 20 teachers and professionals will work over the summer, helping 260 students.

“We’re just getting started,” Morrison said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for students, to participate in this opportunity.”

The classes at Crest are independent study courses in state history, U.S. history, English and physical education.

Summer school has traditionally filled the role of helping students who fell behind during the year to catch up to their peers, such as the K-8 grade “Keeping Pace” program at Island Park Middle School, or WASL exam prep courses at the high school level, now retooling for the High School Proficiency Exam that will replace it. Both of those programs begin later this month.

But this year is a little different. An increasing number of students are snapping up new summer offerings: “The History of Cinema” or “Writing for College” and half-credits in algebra. The expanded offerings are a recognition that students of all interests are showing up for summer school. Courses such as the writing class are fully enrolled.

“It’s a wide variety of reasons,” she said. “Sometimes, they failed a course, other students want to get ahead for the next year ... or they’ve been traveling.”

For Special Education students, the Extended School Year program is offered, K-12, only to those who receive a recommendation from their teachers.

The position of summer school coordinator came as somewhat of a surprise to Morrison, who is now transitioning to Director of Elementary Learning Services as the MISD reshuffles responsibilities.

She took over the position when Jeff Lowell, dean of students at Mercer Island High School, was hired as an associate principal at Interlake High School in Bellevue this May. She, in turn, will hand over responsibility to MISD administrator Debbie Urman on July 6.

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