Have questions about summer school? From when it starts to the top ways teens and tweens can benefit from taking courses online between school years, experts offer up all the answers you need.

By Kristi Pahr
June 17, 2020
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Summer is just getting started, and while many teens are looking forward to a three-month break from the school grind, others are getting prepped for the summer semester. While summer school may sound at first like the worst possible way to spend summer vacation, there are many reasons a teen might consider attending summer school. A few biggies? To retake a difficult class, get an early start on college classes, or enroll in specialized programs not available during the regular school year.

While the 2019-2020 school year wasn't a typical one, the 2020 summer semester is still on in many districts, filled with teens who are trying to make up for time lost to school closures before starting back in the fall, or trying to get a jump on classes for early graduation. Even though summer school this year might be different from years past, many things are the same.

Enrolling in summer school isn't for everyone, but if your teen needs a boost or wants to get ahead of the game, it can be a great opportunity to encourage summer learning, engage with other teens, and get them ready for the year ahead. Consider this a crash course for a successful summer semester.

Why enroll in summer school?

Summer semester can serve different purposes for different students. If a student struggled in a trigonometry class and wants to boost their grade point average (GPA), retaking that class over the summer can allow them to focus on trig instead of trig and the five or six other classes they had during the regular school year. According to Debra Chester Ph.D., academic coordinator for Walden University's B.S./M.S. Instructional Design and Technology program, summer school allows students to "take individual classes they need for credit, as well as post-tests to see if they have passed the courses for placement in the upcoming school year. If the summer school courses are online, students take an assessment upon completion of their course."

Other students may be interested in getting a jump on college credit or may want to accrue the credits necessary to allow them to graduate high school early. For students interested in a specific area of study, enrolling in summer classes might allow them to benefit from programs not typically offered during fall and spring semesters.

How long is summer school?

Summer school classes generally start in June and continue through August with some districts offering multiple sessions per summer term. Since summer semester is typically shorter than a regular semester, class periods are longer and more intensive than during the regular school year. What might have been a 45-minute English lit class in the fall becomes a two, three, or even five-hour English lit class in the summer.

That said, it's important that teens set a summer school schedule that allows for breaks. A multi-hour class followed by study times every day can be a heavy load to carry and without adequate time to rest and re-energize, you're asking for burnout, especially if students are enrolled in more than one class at a time.

One significant difference between summer classes and regular year classes is that students aren't required to stay at school for the entire day. If only one class is being taken, students need only to stay for that one class.

What options does my teen have for summer school programs?

If your high school student doesn't need to make up missed credits or improve their GPA by taking specific classes but is still interested in summer learning, there are plenty of opportunities. Programs offered through their school district might allow them to learn a new skill or take specialized classes within a specific field, but school-based classes aren't their only option. Many districts partner with local colleges to provide juniors and seniors the option of taking classes on campus for college credit and colleges around the country provide opportunities for pre-college students to come experience college life and enroll in specialized programs.

Can my teen take summer school classes online?

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools will be moving their summer school offerings to the virtual world. After months of navigating online schooling during the regular school year, your teen should be familiar with virtual schooling, making for an easy transition.

"Due to COVID-19, some summer school programs will be offered online this year while traditional programs may require students to wear masks and social distance," explains Dr. Chester. "Online summer school programs have provided their students with laptops and tablets to accommodate for the courses. Schools that do not yet have online summer school programs will likely make plans to offer them soon."

Online resources such as K12 and Connections Academy, which provide free, online public school options are also a great choice for students who want to catch up or get ahead from the comfort of home. Check their sites to see if they have classes available for your district.

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