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Summer school going online in Henry

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

High schoolers wanting to take credit-recovery courses this summer, in Henry County Schools, will have to do so on a computer. School officials said students may access their summer classes at home, or at select school district facilities.

"For the 2010 summer, there will not be a face-to-face summer school program," said Steve Thompson, Henry's instructional technology coordinator.

Thompson said the school district is making way for more efficient, and cost-effective, "extended learning opportunities" with the increasingly popular online version of summer school credit recovery.

The school district has had dual summer programs for the past four years, he said. The programs allowed students to earn credit in both a face-to-face and online format.

"We have compared the results of these two programs, and found that online classes have as high or higher success rate as face to face," Thompson said. "This is the same result that national studies have shown. These classes do have teachers who interact directly with students, it is just done online."

Thompson said an added incentive for school officials to move to an online summer program was the state of the school district's budget woes. "When we were faced with making difficult budget decisions this year," he said, "the school [district] decided to focus on offering online courses."

Henry County Schools Superintendent Michael Surma said instituting a more robust online summer program will save the district from costs associated with hiring part-time personnel.

"Using this program, we don't anticipate any additional spending. It will be all self-support," Surma said. "It gives us better flexibility for use of faculty and staff during the summer."

For this summer, the school district has issued five summer program options, including online classes directed by teachers.

Thompson said the school district will also offer credit-recovery classes in which students work through a computer-based, self-paced program at the Academy for Advanced Studies, on the Henry County High School campus.

He said students also have the option of attending online credit-recovery classes at certain high schools, depending on need and availability. Classes will be offered through the second-chance program at certain high schools as well, along with free classes for 11th- and 12th-graders needing help to pass one or more portions of the Georgia High School Graduation Test.

Thompson said the face-to-face summer program traditionally has not been cost neutral and has cost the school district more money to operate than the tuition generates, which is partly due to the limited number of students who need any particular course.

He said teacher salary, in the face-to-face summer program, was determined on a per-class basis. Teacher salary for the online summer program, however, is determined on a per-pupil basis as teachers respond to students individually, and instructional time requirements depend on the number of students enrolled in the class.

"Therefore, most online courses are cheaper to run, do reflect the amount of tuition generated, and so are cost neutral to the school district," Thompson said. "We are actually able to offer more courses through online classes, because we can allow a class [that] has only one student in it because the teacher cost is also limited."

Thompson said that, in years past, other available options to earn credit have caused participation in the school district's summer program to decrease. He noted the summer program tuition has been lowered, from $275 to $225 per one-half unit of credit. He said he believes this year's lower tuition might also affect the number of students who participate.

Registration for this year's summer program begins on June 7, at Henry County High school, at 401 East Tomlinson St., in McDonough. Online course sessions will begin on June 7, and credit-recovery sessions will commence June 8, at the Academy for Advanced Studies on the Henry County High campus.

Final exams are set for July 13 through July 15, and will be followed by a summer graduation on July 20.

"We do not expect that the elimination of face-to-face summer school classes will affect the number of students who are able to graduate, since we offer all the courses online that we offered face to face and our level of academic success was as good or better in online classes," Thompson said.

To learn more about Henry's summer "extended learning opportunities," visit www.henry.k12.ga.us.