| Summer school offers academic enrichment
Students make potstickers during a summer cooking class
at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda.
ST. JOSEPH NOTRE DAME HIGH SCHOOL PHOTO
By Michele Jurich
It's the cruel fact of summer: Kids are out of school for about two months. Parents, for the most part, don't get that much time off from work.
Listening to parents' needs is one of the strengths of the Catholic schools, which provide programs during the summer to keep young minds engaged and growing, offering parents the stability of programs and values they trust.
Last summer, 14 of the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Oakland offered summer school. Curriculum in the diocesan schools must be approved by Linda Basman, assistant superintendent. Many schools are still in the process of submitting their plans to Basman. Curriculum must be approved before the schools can offer registration.
Each school has a summer school principal who is a credentialed teacher, she said. The schools offer "a safe, nurturing environment," she said. The strength of the academic programs is complemented by engagement in programs designed to develop the students' other interests, and often involve field trips to such places as the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland.
High schools run by religious orders do not have to have their curriculum approved by the Department of Catholic Schools.
In addition, the six urban Catholic schools that have a 21st Century Learning Center on their campuses offer summer programs through the learning centers, which are a federally funded project of the Eastbay Collaborative for Underserved Children.
Among the schools that offered summer programs last year are Holy Rosary in Antioch, St. Edward in Newark, St. Joachim in Hayward, St. Leander in San Leandro, St. Leo in Oakland, St. Patrick in Rodeo and the School of the Madeleine in Berkeley.
High schools have traditionally offered classes for their own students, and have branched out into offerings from younger students. Some are offering opportunities for middle school students to study on their campuses, while others are reaching out to even younger students.
St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda, for example, offers its Summer Discovery courses to students as young as those entering third grade.
At the Catholic elementary schools, Basman said, the morning session is dedicated to academics, while enrichment programs — which might include science, art, cooking and media — take place in the afternoon. Additional care is offered in the mornings and late afternoons to accommodate parents' work schedules.
"Summer is a long break," Basman said. Working on their math and language arts skills "keeps them on top of their game," she said.
New offerings at St. Joseph Notre Dame this summer include Science Lab, which will take science on the road to four local scientific institutions, Photography and Stage a Dinner Party. Stage a Dinner Party is a continuation of a theme developed in the school's popular Cooking with Mitch class, in which students prepare meals with Mitch Costanza, a professional chef.
But the most popular class last summer, said communications director Mary McInerney, was accelerated honors geometry for ninth- and 10th-graders. Successful completion of the course puts them on track to take calculus in high school.
"We focused on our strengths," McInerney said, "academics and athletics," in assembling the course offerings. Sports camps include basketball, volleyball, soccer and cross country.
Of special note are the invitational camps for middle school students, who are nominated by their principals to attend sessions with topics including debate, science, creative writing and Model United Nations. The middle school students receive full scholarships — and a chance to study at the St. Joseph Notre Dame campus before they make a decision about high school.
The school also offers care before and after school.
Summer mornings at St. Leander School in San Leandro are a time to focus on academics. "For some, it's remedial, to help them get caught up," said Amy Cross, the summer school principal. For others, who need or want it, there is the challenge to excel.
The program, entering its fifth year, listened to parents' needs, Cross said, and developed a program offered to school and parish families, and then expanded to offer classes to neighboring Catholic and public schools. "It's quite a wide, diverse community," she said.
After noon, "we offer a wide variety of activities for students," she said. There are walking field trips to the park and to the San Leandro Public Library, where students participate in the summer reading program.
Afternoons also include arts and crafts, cooking, music instruction and outdoor play.
There's a familiarity to the school in summer. "All of our staff members are teachers or assistants who work in the regular school program," she said. Classroom assistants for the summer include St. Leander alumni who are now in high school.
Care is offered both before and after school, she said.