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Low enrollment may doom slated skills academy

Program helps students who may need extra assistance with transition to high school classes

Unless the school receives more interest, Morris Community High School District 101’s annual Summer Skills Academy may not occur this year.

This would be the seventh year for the skills academy, which is available to incoming freshmen who may be in need of some extra help.

“It’s a bridge for eighth graders who struggle in English and math,” said Principal Kelly Hussey to the school board Monday.

At this point in time, the school has received the lowest enrollment numbers yet for the program. The board approved the proposal for this year’s skills academy, if it gets enough participants to go forward.
In March, the district sent letters to parents with students who struggle in math or English, based on recommendations from junior high teachers and if their state test scores are below the 50 percentile in these categories.

“In an effort to increase the number of students who succeed in high school, we are inviting you to seriously consider reserving a position in this summer’s 2013 Skills Academy,’” states the letter.

It further explains the goal of the program is to strengthen their student’s skills in math or English in preparation for the rigors of high school classes.

The school has seven registered for the program now and needs at least 12 to move forward. Families have until June 3 to enroll, said Hussey Wednesday. Over 100 invitations were sent out.

The cost is $60 per student and, if they meet the attendance and work requirements, the student will receive a half of a credit toward completion of their high school diploma. If a family cannot pay, the school can work with them on the cost of the program.

The classes are 90 minutes Monday through Friday for 20 days starting in June and running through July.

English teacher Andrea Gustafson has taught the program since it began.

“I think this is a great program as students enter high school. I happened to be standing in the hallway earlier this week and a student who was in my summer skills section last year told me he had a B in English. I jokingly said, ‘That’s because of our summer class,’” she said. “He said, ‘Seriously Mrs. G — part of it is. It helped me so much.’”

“This is a great opportunity to brush up on critical skills in English and math, as well as getting to meet high school teachers and those who will be their fellow classmates,” she continued. “It’s a very beneficial four weeks.”

If the program does not get enough participants, Hussey said the school would attempt to find alternative programs to assist those students in need of extra help.

In the past, the students have given the program positive reviews. They are not thrilled that they are in school during the summer, said Hussey, but word of mouth is what has continued the program for the past seven years.

During the first year, the English and math class were combined. But the program has continued to grow so much that it was separated into two classes.

Hussey said he did not know why this year’s enrollment was down. The cost has stayed consistent, but it could be due to economic troubles, he said.

If a family still has their letter with the registration form, they can mail or bring that to the school, or they can call the school to register or for more information at (815) 942-1294.

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