District summer schools pack them in

The La Cañada Unified School District isn’t running a summer school program this year, but La Cañada students are still taking summer classes at LCUSD campuses, Paradise Canyon Elementary and La Cañada High School, thanks to the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation and Assistance League of Flintridge.

La Cañada Unified eliminated its summer school program for high school students last July, a move that saves the district $87,405 annually. The Educational Foundation stepped up to provide a summer-school program to La Cañada residents, much like the Assistance League of Flintridge did 33 years ago.

The Assistance League’s summer school program, which offers 80 classes to about 700 students, began Monday. The Foundation’s first year of summer school began June 20 and 240 students currently are enrolled in the program, which offers 13 different core courses.

Jinny Dalbeck, one of three summer school chairman with the Foundation, said that number is higher than LCUSD’s summer school enrollment of about 210 last year.

“We honestly didn’t know what to expect; there are lots of competitors in the area,” Dalbeck said. “We had no idea what people will do. We were thrilled with the number of students we ended up with.”

Dalbeck said the Foundation knew how important summer school is to LCUSD students. It allows them to revisit a class they didn’t do well in, and to manage their busy schedules by taking courses early to free up space for electives.

“That’s how kids can be in programs like theater, band, choral and ceramics,” Dalbeck said. “Our students are high-achieving and they have heavy loads to carry, plus they all play sports.”

The Foundation’s summer school is designed to meet the same high standards as La Cañada High’s by following LCHS’ curriculum.

“One day in summer school equals a whole week during the year,” Dalbeck said. “It’s a tough, rigorous program and you’re putting in roughly the same hours you put in during the school year. We felt it was necessary for a teacher to be able to adequately get through the breadth and depth of the courses and for students to come out of the class feeling they’d mastered the subject.”

The Assistance League’s program, on the other hand, is more geared toward fun for first- through eighth-graders.

“This is not for credit, it’s for fun and enrichment,” said Christy Palmer, a summer school chairman with the Assistance League. “We do offer some math and writing, if they need to brush up on those, but it’s definitely for fun.”

Coordinating the summer school program, hiring teachers and deciding on the classes is a “huge task,” but it’s worth it, Palmer said.

“I think, especially with 700 kids enrolled, it’s really valuable to the community,” Palmer said. “All of our programs at ALF are designed to help the kids. We keep the prices as low as we can — $150 a class. It’s a great deal and a great program.”

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