For the first time in more than a decade, students from the Santa Barbara Unified School District are participating in the Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s summer school program designed for students who want to earn credit and get ahead with their academics.

One week ago, students began their first day of summer school classes. The Santa Barbara Education Foundation Summer School is a new program taking place on the San Marcos High School campus.

Classes offered this summer include American Government, Biology, Economics, Health and Freshman Seminar. There are 175 students enrolled in the program, with some students taking multiple classes. In addition to Santa Barbara area locals, classes include students from surrounding areas and even out-of-state students.

A visit to the classes last week revealed students engaged and learning from exciting and dynamic instructors. Students in the biology class were looking through a microscope at plant cells and human cells they had swabbed from their mouths. The students were taking pictures of the cells through the microscope with their smartphones and then examining the pictures — very cool!

In health, they were learning about sleep cycles and stages of sleep. The students wondered why they started school at 8 a.m. if their sleep cycle says they should be sleeping? It was pointed out that they wouldn’t have time for sports and activities if they started school later. 

In government, the students were debating the merits of electronic voting. The instructor is arranging for guest speakers from the Goleta City Council and other local politicians.

The majority of the students enrolled in the program are paying tuition, while scholarships have been provided for students in need. The Santa Barbara Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides private support for public education programs throughout the Santa Barbara Unified School District. Since its founding in 1985, SBEF has raised funds for musical instruments, playground equipment, library books, technology and much more. SBEF led the successful parcel tax and bond measure campaigns that have resulted in $18 million for enrichment programs and $110 million for capital improvements. SBEF is the only organization in Santa Barbara that raises districtwide support for every school and student in the elementary, middle and high schools.

Students will receive University of California “A-G” credit for some classes and meet high school graduation requirements for others.

“We are off to a great start,” SBEF Summer School Principal Alex Sheldon said. “It’s great to see so many students putting in extra time for summer learning.”

Parent, Lori Lander Goodman agreed.

“I am delighted to let you know that Noah LOVES his government class,” she said. “He is engaged in the subject, discusses the topics covered over dinner and is really learning the material. I think that the teacher, Dana Fisher, seems to be doing a lovely job engaging the kids.

“I am very glad that he is able to take Government and Health over the summer to clear the way for an intense engineering season in the Winter/Spring, and that we didn’t trade quality learning in order to lighten his load.”

Santa Barbara Education Foundation Summer School continues until July 25. Classes run from 8 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. four days per week.

— Margie Yahyavi is executive director of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation.