The mention of summer school to most children draws groans that sound like they have just been read a death sentence.

This summer, however, Department of Defense Dependents Schools hopes to change that by offering a summer school program that will be fun for students and provide much-needed relief to parents, according to Dr. Candace Ransing, deputy director for DODDS-Europe.

The program, offered only in 1st Armored Division communities, is aimed at easing the burden on 1st AD families, many of whom have been operating as single-parent households while spouses are deployed.

First AD troops were due home in April, but received an extension that could take them through August.

The last time DODDS offered summer school was three years ago, said Ransing. This year’s program was created because 1st AD families had requested additional support.

The program is for kindergarten through eighth grade. It runs from 9 a.m. to noon June 28 through July 23 in Baumholder, Giessen, Hanau and Wiesbaden.

The summer classes are designed to build on basic skills in language arts, reading and math that students learned during the school year. But they will be presented in a nontraditional, creative way.

In the third- through sixth-grade program, children can take a mystery-themed class that will look at earth, space, ocean and magnets. Sixth- through eighth-graders will explore the various forms of media and examine TV-viewing habits.

Parents have different reasons for sending their children, but most agree that it will give parents a much-needed break, even if it’s just three hours a day.

“We’re like the sole provider — 24 hours [a day] — and I feel like my kids don’t enjoy it when I drive them to the commissary, pay the bills, pick up this and that,” said Susanne Flum, whose son, Kevin, 11, and daughter, Alisa, 6, will attend the program at Giessen Elementary School. “I can honestly tell you that I’m not as strong as I was a year ago. …

“It isn’t just for the children, it’s for [all] of us. It gives us a little time away from one another … and it gives them a chance to be with children their age.”

Jennifer Wagner agreed. She is also hopeful that the summer school’s smaller classes will help her daughter progress with reading.

“She’s a kindergartener and she’s just not catching on to the whole letter thing … and she’s kind of behind,” Wagner said. “I tried sitting down with her myself and [helping her], but it’s just not the same, because I’m her mom.

“I figured a whole summer without any practice on reading would really set her behind.”

Despite the tumultuous spring semester adjusting to the news of the extension, students on a whole scored well on standardized tests, Ransing said.

“The schools have been really pleased with the way kids did on the tests,” she said. “In spite of the fact that mom and dad were deployed … and the fact that the week we gave one of the major tests, the kids found out that Mom or Dad were not coming home [on time].”

The 38 DODDS teachers and two administrators who volunteered to conduct the four-week summer school will receive additional pay for their efforts.

First AD spouses can still enroll their children in the program by contacting their school principal.

Online Program

High school students are currently testing a way to attend summer school without ever stepping foot in a classroom.

This summer, Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe is offering an online summer school for students who need extra help in algebra, geometry or English.

“The only thing [students] have to do is sit down at the computer every day, log on and do their work,” said Dr. Candace Ransing, deputy director for DODDS-Europe.

“As long as they complete the course and get a passing grade, [they] can get that D or F off their transcript.”

The first class of the pilot program began June 7 and will last eight weeks, with other cycles beginning each Monday in June. DODDS was originally allotted 138 slots, but as of June 17, 226 students are enrolled in the program, Ransing said.

Marco Defenbaugh, who just finished his junior year at Bamberg High School, is taking an online course in geometry and English this summer.

“I’m not really good in math,” said Defenbaugh, who hopes to improve his grade with the summer school course and complete English 12 to give him an extra credit during his senior year.

Middle school students also are getting in on the act. Thirteen students at Ramstein Middle School and 30 Heidelberg Middle School students are currently taking pilot algebra courses online. There are still slots available for the Heidelberg course, Ransing said.

If both programs run successfully, DODDS may offer a regular online summer school as early as next summer.

— Lisa Horn

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