By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — It was 94 degrees outside, but some local youths weren’t heading to the beach or the air-conditioned mall.
They were going to school.
“It’s something to do instead of just sitting on the couch,” said Maddie Craig, 13, of Salem.
More than 300 students from Salem, Windham and Pelham are giving up some of their leisure time to participate in Salem’s summer school program.
In most cases, it’s not because they failed a course, according to program director Michael Courtois.
Summer school is increasing in popularity as more students take advantage of the various enrichment programs being offered, he said.
“The enrichment program has exploded,” Courtois said. “They are learning things and they don’t even realize it. Parents are looking for things their kids can do in the summer.”
While some students need to retake a class they failed, some want to a boost grade or get ahead in their academics, Courtois said.
The Salem School District is offering a multitude of programs through Aug. 6 to help students beat the summer doldrums.
They include everything from traditional math and English courses to hands-on programs, such as “Calling All Chemists” and “Salem Explores,” where students take field trips and learn how an electrical eel lights up and how Picasso painted his masterpieces.
Another offering is the popular drama program, which will perform “Little Orphan Annie” at the high school Friday afternoon.
As some high school students were completing their English essays in one classroom at Salem High School yesterday, Maddie and a group of other seventh- to ninth-graders were putting together elaborate experiments in teacher Mark Hillner’s enrichment chemistry class.
Hillner, who was teaching his class about gases, said it didn’t matter that it was such a beautiful summer day. His students were having a lot of fun in class. It helped that it was air-conditioned.
“They are here four and a half hour and no one is getting antsy,” Hillner said. “Time flies by and everyone is engaged.”
For students who want get ahead in school or improve grades, the summer school program is the perfect place, Courtois said.
“It gives you a little extra push to do your best work in the summer,” Courtois said. “It really makes a difference.”
Andrew Dalencourt, 16, did perfectly fine in his English class last year. He wanted to get a better grade, but wasn’t thrilled with the idea of taking a summer class.
“It’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” he said. “I thought it would be really boring and a lot of work.”
But Dalencourt, who is from Windham, said he ended up enjoying the work and class discussions, and made some new friends.
John Cerretani, 17, of Salem was also pleasantly surprised.
“It’s not a hassle, it’s actually enjoyable,” he said. “It’s good to do the work so you don’t go to dust over the summer.”