The C.A.S.E. for summer school

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

 HILLSVILLE — Learning about grammar and writing persuasive essays as an antidote to summer boredom?


That's probably not what educators at Carroll County Intermediate School's program had in mind, but that's precisely what two students said about the CASE summer session.

Granted, more happens there than underlining the nouns and circling the verbs at the Cavalier After-school and Summer Enrichment program.

There's also making new friends from Woodlawn and St. Paul schools, high-energy aerobics, soccer, weight room training and more, the students said.

"It's really fun," said Jacob Adams. "I get to go to the [Carroll] wellness center and the teachers make it pretty fun in class."

When he correctly answered a question about prefixes and suffixes in class the other day, the teacher gave him a small reward — a piece of candy.

Teachers at the intermediate school seem pretty nice to Adams. He's looking forward to writing about his wrestling team experiences, training and being in tournaments for an assignment in John Heller's class.

"In Mr. Heller's class, we're learning how to make a good essay," Adams explained.

Ashleymarie Quesenberry is glad to be in CASE, too, because she has a natural affinity for school. "I like doing school, so it makes it fun to be able to do school work in the summer," she explained.

English is her favorite subject.

If she was not in school, Quesenberry would likely stay inside at home reading. Right now, she's working on the popular undead teenage angst thriller, "Twilight."

While not necessarily thrilled about the lessons on "proper grammar," Quesenberry acknowledges its importance in writing a good essay — as she collaborated with some fellow students to write a persuasive essay on creating a library club at the school.

CASE is open to rising eighth graders who are heading to the intermediate school from Woodlawn and St. Paul. Both students say they look forward — more than ever — to starting the eighth grade in the fall.

Feeder schools identify students who can benefit from CASE and recommend them to educators at the intermediate, explained Tammy Delp, CASE program manager and reading specialist said. Those students are invited to participate in the summer school's small classes.

The academic focus is on English and math, but there are also computer labs, art class including pottery, a field trip to the Carroll County Historical Society Museum to learn local history, and books given to the students so they can continue reading all summer, Delp said.

Those CASE students who pass both the math and English Standards of Learning test get the ultimate incentive — a family membership to the Carroll Wellness Center.

Many parents who had a student go through CASE often want their other children to enroll in it, too, because of the results of the program, Delp said.

There's one more year of this 21st Century Learning Centers grant program, and then the school can reapply for continued funding.

Helping students get prepared to handle the change to the new school is part of the goal of CASE, Principal Chuck Thompson said.

"These students get a head start on other rising eighth graders by becoming familiar with the building and some of the teachers," he explained. "It helps alleviate anxiety transitioning from one school to the next."

It makes that first day of school in the fall — finding their classrooms and meeting their teachers — a little less of a shock for these 50 or so students.

Students also like the less formal academic day, which includes a variety of physical fitness activities for them at the Carroll Wellness Center during the afternoons.

The CASE program has been going strong for five years, and Thompson said it helps the students achieve academically, along with other programs being offered.

Students in CASE can also take advantage of after-school tutoring throughout the regular school year, and many do, he explained.

Thompson doesn't attribute all improvements to summer schooling, but notes there's an important emphasis on reading skills countywide, for example.

"Our students in CASE had better SOL scores than they previously had," he said. "More exposure [to the material], hopefully, means more learning."