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Published: Friday, 6/16/2006

Summer students opting for Web classes

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The growing popularity of online courses to make up failed subjects is being cited for the steady decline in summer school enrollment the last three years, Toledo Public Schools officials said yesterday.

Summer school for high school and junior high school students from throughout the Toledo region began yesterday at Bowsher High School with fewer than half the number of students the district enrolled two years ago.

The enrollment was so low the district consolidated the junior high school and high school courses into a single building, said Jane Bruss, spokesman for the school system.

At the start of classes yesterday, there were 393 students enrolled, down from 621 last summer and 918 in 2004.

"We did close one site and combined everything here," said Liz Wray, a district assistant principal who is working with the summer school. "Our numbers are definitely lower because some students are taking online courses without summer school."

David Thomas, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education, said online courses for kindergarten through 12th grade are increasingly popular.

According to a study the department conducted, 80 percent of public school districts said that offering courses not available at their schools is one of the most important reasons for having distance education.

Mr. Thomas said 36 percent of school districts nationwide offered online courses during the 2002-03 school year, the most recent year for which figures are available.

TPS officials said the online option is more attractive than traditional summer school. Ms. Bruss said students can do the work when they want and at their own pace.

Just over 90 percent of the high school students taking summer classes through TPS, whether online or in the classroom, are generally retaking a failed course.

Ms. Wray said the atmosphere at Bowsher yesterday was mostly upbeat.

"Kids really tend to like the experience, although they don't like it at first," she said. "It's cool this week, but it is supposed to get hotter next week, so we'll see."

Ms. Wray also noted that the program serves students from private schools, charter schools, and other school districts in the Toledo area, including those in southeast Michigan. Elementary summer school is being held at East Side Central, Fulton, Hawkins, Lagrange, Longfellow, and Walbridge.



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