A fresh new take on summer school at ConVal

The long, hot, boring days of being stuck in a classroom for summer school are a thing of the past – at least in Peterborough.

Three years ago ConVal High School did anyway with the traditional model and created “Summer Academy.” Since it’s inception, the program has grown from 12 students, to more than 70, many of whom are electing to return again and again.

The goal was to create classes that engaged not only students who needed to improve grades or recover credit, but students who wanted to continue learning through the summer, explained Director of Extended School Day and Summer Academy Programs John Reitnauer.

This summer students can chose from a variety of classes including Algebra I, Biology, and Creative Writing, which are offered as skill-building and credit recovery options, as well numerous enrichment courses. Some of these, like Astronomy on iPads, and a science course called “Science Fiction,” aren’t even offered during the regular school year.

“We didn’t just want to fix issues, we wanted the summer to offer something truly engaging. Classes that students might be interested in to build their resume for college, perhaps,” Reitnauer said.

Becket Gourlay, 14, of Peterborough was an incoming freshman last year when he decided to take a social studies course over the summer. Gourlay said being in school during the summer helped him feel comfortable with the physical layout of the building, meet friends, and get some credits out of the way. “I did it because I wanted to eventually have more flexibility in my schedule,” Gourlay said.

Gourlay is planning on taking another course this summer

Reitenauer hopes that, like Gourlay, more incoming freshman will take advantage of the Summer Academy to make the transition from middle to high school easier. “It can really help them prepare for classes, and feel comfortable in the school, to know it’s a good place,” he said.

The Summer Academy runs for four weeks, Monday through Thursday, July 7-31, with two sessions from 8-10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Each class costs $50 for students who live in the Con Val regional school district. But, unlike the traditional summer school model, students can “earn” tuition back, said Reitnauer. If students receive a passing grade in a course the $50 payment is refunded. Each course counts for half a high school credit and is graded

All of the courses are taught by Con Val teachers who have a certification or are considered highly qualified in a subject area. “It’s a nice opportunity for our teachers to continue teaching and get paid through the summer. To be compensated for something we decided to make our career - that feels good,” Reitnauer said.

Reitnauer anticipates that perhaps someday the Summer Academy program would be a shared program with other districts but for now students from other districts pay a $150 nonrefundable fee.

Registration for Summer Academy has just opened, but already there are six students enrolled. In order to run a class there must be at least five students signed-up.

Angela Hartman teaches 9th Grade Honors and American Cultural Studies for 11th Grade at Con Val. In Summer Academy she will be teaching an English enrichment course called, “Crime Writing.”

Hartman said she developed the course by asking students what they would be interested in learning. “I literally sat down with them and said, ‘what do you want to work on?’”

The course will focus on the study of detective and mystery writing. Hartman will use popular media to investigate how to create believable characters. “I will probably dip into psychology and criminal studies — my undergraduate focuses — to develop case studies too,” she said.

Hartman said she is particularly enthusiastic about the course because it was designed by students. “When students have input it makes learning fun and then they are excited to come to class,” she said.

Students interested in the Summer Academy should register by the end of June. For more information contact John Reitnauer, Summer Academy Coordinator at or 924-3869, ext. 4454.

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