When the final school bell tolls each June, most Riverside District 96 students bid the halls of learning a fond farewell for the summer. But many also return shortly after the final report card is handed out to take advantage of the district’s summer school program, which offers enrichment classes in many different study areas.

District 96 administrators, however, are planning changes to the summer school program to provide more continuity, attract more in-district teachers and prepare students better for the upcoming school year.

At the heart of the change is shifting the summer school program from one six-week session of classes to two sessions, one three-week session shortly after the fourth quarter ends and another two-week session just before the new school year begins.

In addition, classes would be held five days a week, with two 1.5-hour sessions each day during the morning. That differs from the past system in which some classes met for two days each week and some for three or even four. The new schedule would also limit the amount of “down time” between classes where students are sometimes unsupervised.

Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson is hoping that a new summer school leadership team consisting of Blythe Park School Principal Robert Chleboun and Ames School Principal Colleen Lieggi will also bring some stability to the program. District 96’s summer school has had three different directors, all teachers, in the past five years.

In addition, some two-thirds of all the district’s summer school teachers have come from outside District 96. Many of the students in the summer school program also come from schools outside the district.

Summer school participants pay a fee to attend the classes. Lamberson said the purpose of the fee is to run a program that’s break-even financially. Chleboun said that the district will try to streamline its fee structure this year. Last year, for example, classes meeting two days a week for an hour at a time varied in cost from $45 to $70. An official fee structure has not yet been determined.

“I asked Bob and Colleen to take a leadership role and bring some continuity to the program,” Lamberson said. “I’m hoping to have a program that our teachers will really value.”

While acknowledging that the District 96 summer school program has received positive reviews from parents in the past, Chleboun said he and Lieggi researched summer school programs in several nearby districts to see how District 96 could “connect our summer school format to our mission statement.

“What is it that parents are looking for and what students need?” he asked.

While many of the past summer school classes fit nicely within the district’s mission statement to help students think critically and creatively, Chleboun said that much of what’s taught earlier in the summer can get “lost” throughout the summer months and that teachers end up spending the first few weeks of the new school year “getting students up to par.”

The two session format would allow students to get a jump start on the new school year. Lamberson said that the early summer session, tentatively slated for June 13-30, would focus on the kinds of enrichment classes the summer school program has traditionally provided for kids in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. The summer session would offer a jumpstart kindergarten program, according to Lamberson.

“We expect to have as broad a set of offerings, if not deeper, than we’ve had in the past,” Lamberson said.

And, unlike past years, classes will be held not only at Hauser Junior High, but also at Central School, next door. An added benefit, other than holding classes for smaller children in classrooms designed for them, was that Central School has additional classrooms that are air-conditioned.

The second session, Aug. 14-25, would serve as a “jumpstart program to allow students to ready themselves, especially in reading and math, although it could include other things as well,” Lamberson said.

A summer school brochure should be ready for parents in early March, when registration would begin for summer school classes. Information about the new summer school program, however, will be available to parents during the district-wide parent/teacher conferences scheduled for Feb. 16-17.