Students from all three Santa Barbara Unified high schools took American government, biology, economics, freshman seminar or a health class at San Marcos High School, according to Executive Director Margie Yahyavi.
More than 25 percent of the students were on a full or partial scholarship, and so many more low-income students applied that Yahyavi had a 48-student waitlist and stopped taking applications.
“It was a really good experience for everyone — teachers and students — and when it’s all done, the students have five to 10 units out of the way so they can take another elective, join a sport or do the next level of a class during the year,” said Alex Sheldon, who administered the program and is a San Marcos teacher and coach. “I hope it changes the culture that summer school is not just for students who were unsuccessful during the school year.”
He said the foundation sent out exit surveys to families, and of the students who responded (and aren’t graduating), 85 percent would be interested in doing it again next year.
“They focused on one thing and were done in 12 days — for some students it was a draw,” Sheldon said.
While Yahyavi organized registration and the taking of fees, helped by UCSB intern Christina Curti, Sheldon made sure the courses satisfied district requirements and watched over the day-to-day operations.
Ultimately, there wasn’t enough interest to offer arts or music programs this year, but the Education Foundation hopes to offer electives next year in addition to the core classes.
Yahyavi is also looking for community support to expand the scholarship program. The courses cost $290 for a five-unit (three-week) class and $580 for a 10-unit class, while scholarship students paid only a $25 materials fee.
“We had 63 total scholarship students and a waiting list of 48 kids we just couldn’t accommodate because of financial restraints,” Yahyavi said.
Dozens of teachers applied for the jobs, and the ones who taught all summer were fantastic, she said.
“They had five hours a day and did a really good job of keeping the students engaged in the program and breaking up the day with activities and projects,” she said.
Biology teacher Cody Foster had students tag “rollie pollie” bugs in the schoolyard with nail polish for estimating the population and tracking their movements.
“He made it come alive for them,” Yahyavi said.
On the last day, he borrowed some organs from Cottage Health System so students could look at and take pictures of real lungs, hearts and brains.
“It was great just being able to go into all the different classes and see what’s going on,” Sheldon said. “I’d walk into a health class and they’d be learning about diseases, then go into the biology room and they were examining shrimp, and then the government room had a debate about immigration reform.”
The foundation hopes to expand the program and enrollment next summer, but most likely will keep the classes hosted on one high school campus for logistical reasons.