Getting ahead

Students looking to get a leg up on their studies change the perception of summer school

Change how you think of summer school.

For many of us, the notion of having to go to summer school seemed like punishment when we were growing up. But these days, students are taking advantage of available programs to get ahead, slowly shifting the perception of summer school.


“I know when I was growing up, it was a bad thing to go to summer school but we’re seeing more students nowadays who are looking to take an extra credit to alleviate the pressure later on,” says Tim Mook Sang, head of high school at St-Laurent Academy. 

Tim Mook-Sang.

“That’s what we encourage students to do – we try to get them to take a summer course with us during Grade 9 and 10 so, when they reach Grade 11 or 12, they have a bit less pressure during the school year.”

It’s a trend school boards across the Ottawa area are experiencing.


“The culture of summer school has changed dramatically over the last 20 to 30 years,” says Philip Capobianco, principal of St. Nicholas Adult High School and the Continuing and Community Education department for the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB).

Philip Capobianco.

The feeling of summer school being a punitive response, he says, is no longer. Instead, students are taking advantage of the available programs to get ahead.


“We offer a full complement of high school courses within our Reach Ahead program, whether it’s the traditional face-to-face model of the eLearning format, which allows learners to work online to complete the course and then write the final exam with their teachers.”

That option certainly makes summer school courses more attainable for busy students who are juggling a lot of different things over the summer – part-time jobs and sports commitments, for example. The eLearning program is offered during the same hours as the face-to-face programming, it is just taught online rather than in the classroom.


Of course, the OCSB also offers a program for credit recoveries but Capobianco is quick to point out it isn’t a make-up credit or Reach Ahead credit.

“This is giving the learner the ability to go in and build a profile with a teacher to determine what expectations are missing from the credit that was attempted during the school year,” he explains.


“We are building on the success of the learner during the school year and just topping up the odd expectation that is missing during the summer. By the end of the summer, the student has recovered the credit and returns to their school in the fall with a sense of achievement and more self-confidence.”


For students looking for more personal attention, the summer school program at Heritage Academy offers learners a bit of a different experience.

“The first thing we offer for students at the elementary school level (Grades 1 through 8) is individual tutoring times,” explains Heritage Academy director Cheryl Ward.

Cheryl Ward.

“These are two-hour time blocks that are available throughout the month of July and these are times when students can really focus on specific subject matter. This would be anything from language skills, mathematics, social studies, science and technology, even computer studies.”

This approach, she says, is individual student-focused and could benefit kids who might have some areas that need to be addressed before entering into the new grade in September.


At the high school level, Heritage Academy offers summer school class sizes of a maximum of six students per class for certain subjects, like math and English, which translates to a bit of extra teacher attention.


“This is an opportunity for students who took an extended vacation or were ill throughout the year to make up some of those units or concepts that they did not learn,” says Ward.”