Every chair in Melissa Mayer’s civics class is taken. That’s 30 students who roll in each morning at 7:30 to learn about citizenship, current events and civic affairs.
Why such devotion to a class that’s almost never considered a picnic?
Traditionally, some students have chosen to get civics out of the way early, said Laurie Sheffler, principal of Central Valley School District’s secondary summer school.
But this year, some students are citing another reason: the move to a block schedule this fall at Central Valley and University high schools.
A good half of the students in Mayer’s class this summer at Central Valley High are powering through the 22-day course so they can fit their interests into this fall’s four-period academic schedule.
“I want to take band and seminary (through the Mormon Church) and other school subjects,” said Erin Johnson. “Plus, it is easier, in the sense that you can concentrate on just this one subject.”
A number of Mayer’s students say they think the required course is flat-out easier in summer school than during the school year.
The number of tests, pop quizzes, news quizzes, papers and oral presentations Mayer has packed into her lesson plans would not seem to back up that belief.
After 10 minutes of CNN news, Mayer asks the class for opinions on President Clinton’s decision to leave the Internet unregulated.
A back-row skeptic starts off the discussion, saying the government can’t do anything right, so hands-off the Internet is the best plan.
“Aren’t there, like, Internet police?” asks one girl.
The discussion turns to parental control over teenagers’ time on the Internet.
“How many of you know more about computers than your parents?” Mayer asks. Most of the hands went up.
This year, enrollment is up in Central Valley’s secondary summer school. There are 282 students enrolled, versus 241 students last year.
Although the civics classes are full, some summer school classes were dropped for lack of enrollment. Others are combined. One room literally holds two different math classes. Another combines study skills and geometry.
Students pay $125 per class.
“This is a self-supporting program. People think there’s a big pot of gold out there” to pay for summer class, Sheffler said. “But what we bring in, is what we get.”