Summer school started this week in Riverside Elementary School District 96, with more than twice as many kids enrolled than year.

More than 200 students are taking at least one summer school class this year compared to only 95 kids who enrolled in summer school in 2015. Classes are being held this year at Central School and Hauser Junior High during the morning, four days a week.

The switch to a four-day summer school week from five-days is one reason for the big jump in enrollment.

“We decided that based on surveying staff and families that attended last year,” said Hollywood School Principal Kim Hefner, who serves as the summer school principal.

The district also shortened the length of the enrichment classes. Most of those will run only for one week instead of the entire four-week term of the summer school. The shorter classes give families more time if they want to take a late summer vacation.

Summer school in District 96 ends on Aug. 18, a week before the 2016-17 school year begins on Aug. 25.

The district is offering 29 enrichment classes and 14 skill-building classes. The skill-building classes are all at the elementary level and focus on reading or math. They are designed for students who need some extra help and did not completely master the subject during the school year. The skill-building classes are small — typically just seven or so kids with a teacher and a paraprofessional.  

No one is required to go to summer school in District 96, but those who could most benefit from the skill-building classes are sought out. 

“We send out invitations to students who are at a certain deficit level,” Hefner said.

All summer school classes this year are being taught by District 96 teachers.

It’s the second straight year District 96 decided to host summer school at the end of the summer. When to have summer school is a question many school administrators debate.

“We’ve been wrestling with that quite a bit,” Hefner said. “The reason is to give the kids a jumpstart into this year. It’s a decision made specifically for skill building.”

Brookfield-LaGrange Park Elementary School District 95 is also holding summer school at the end of the summer. In District 95, the classes are only offered for Brook Park Elementary School students.

Komarek School in North Riverside is in the final week of its seven-week summer school session, which follows an old-school approach to summer school. Kids who need the extra help are required to attend summer remedial skill-building classes, which last for about four hours daily.

“It’s actually called our mandatory summer school,” said District 94 Superintendent Brian Ganan. “It’s to support students who just need additional support throughout the summer academically, so kids basically qualify to get into the program. It’s based on their GPA.”

Komarek also offers a number of different shorter-term enrichment classes during summer school.

The enrichment classes in District 96 include a robotics and computer coding class for middle schoolers and a one-week long Chicago neighborhoods class, which will focus on the Streeterville neighborhood and culminate in a trip to the Near North area.

Transitioning to Hauser is the most popular summer school class in District 96, with 54 incoming sixth-graders signed up for the four sections of the class. This year, Transitioning to Hauser will be a one-week class. Last year it ran for four weeks. 

During the class, incoming students will get a head start on the often scary transition from elementary school to middle school. They will learn organizational skills and practices, get familiar with the bigger building and learn the all-important skill of how to unlock and organize their lockers. They will also meet incoming students from other elementary schools, so the first day of middle school is not quite so awkward.

Summer school in District 96 seemed to get off to a good start on Monday.  

“Many of them were excited to be back, actually smiling coming to summer school,” Hefner said. “A lot of them are ready to come back, see some friends [and] get back into the routine.”