Judy Vorburger, 10, says the summer session she is attending at Brown Station Elementary School in Gaithersburg "is not really like school. . . . You have fun."
Her friend Amanda Wedberg says frankly, however, that she is cutting out red rectangles and yellow triangles and pasting them on squares in an art class this summer "because my mother signed me up."
Dan Margulis, 11, is using squares and rectangles to compose a work he calls "Radar" for the assignment, which are instructor Martha Marino explains "is supposed to be a design based on the artist Mondrian, who limited himself to horizontal and vertical lines, and the primary colors red, yellow and blue."
Judy, Amanda and Dan are among 1,250 students attending classes at nearly 30 Montgomery County elementary schools this summer.
Ten junior high schools serve 2,500 pupils. The cost of the four weeks of half-day sessions is $28 to elementary and junior high school students who live in the county and $103 to nonresidents. For $55, some 7,000 senior high students can earn one credit for attending a six-week, half-day program at one of 10 area schools.
The tuition fees cover 25 to 30 percent of the cost of summer sessions, estimated at nearly $1.9 million this year, according to Frank Snyder, director of the county's summer school program. The amount represents an increase of $200,000 over last year's budget.
Snyder estimated that approximately 60 percent of the summer school students are attending classes for original credit and enrichment, and the balance are enrolled in courses they failed during the regular school year.
Kim Baker, 12, is one of the Brown Station students who are combining work and play. "I wanted to review math. I also wanted to have fun, so I took drama," she said, adding that she will play the Bad Witch of the West in an improvised version of "The Wiz" as part of her "fun" course.
In contrast to the majority of Montgomery summer students, about 75 percent of more than 9,000 pupils in the Prince George's county school system's summer program this year are repeaters, according to Eleanor Rotter, director of the program. That is, they are taking courses either to qualify for graduation at the end of this month or to be promoted to the next grade in the fall. The balance of the summer students are in programs for maintenance and enrichment, or to compensate for scheduling conflicts of the regular school year.
Students can earn as many as 1 1/2 credits by attending both the morning and afternoon sessions of three hours each and adult education classes in the evening at 17 junior and senior high schools. The cost is $37.50 per half-credit for the 22 days of summer school. The summer program budget this year is approximately $1 million, which is about the same as last year, and tuition fees cover 25 percent of the overall cost, according to Rotter. Transportation costs just for the more than 800 special-education students are expected to exceed $300,000, based on last year's expenses for this program, she said.
Summer school has not been offered Prince George's elementary school pupils in recent years because of budget cuts.
Crossland Senior High principal Charles K. Post said the chief disciplinary problem of summer school is tardiness, but the students generally are highly motivated to complete the program successfully.
"If there's any type of disciplinary action that needs to be taken, then (the student involved) is automatically suspended. You simply can't put up with any type of nonsense because it's a semester-long course condensed into a month."
Post said the nearly 900 students attending classes at Crossland this summer represent the "the biggest program we've had here in 12 years." Among them are 80 seniors, another unusually large number, according to counselor Donald Irwin.
One of the Crossland students is 17-year-old Christina Lewis, who wears Fireside Glow nail polish and is repeating a literature and composition course she failed during her sophomore year. She wants to graduate with her class on July 30.
"When I came up here from Seat Pleasant, I was kind of wild," she says. "I didn't have any goals. It wasn't that I really didn't care. I'd hang out with my friends. We'd go to McDonald's or Giant. We'd sit around and buy doughnuts or get high. Some of them dropped out, and some of them will come back and graduate next year."
She says she came to summer school to put her education back on the track. "I want to look back and say I've accomplished this -- something I can be proud of. I want money, you know -- a big house where I can be comfortable. I want to be finacially secure."
She swung her brown mesh pocketbook and tugged at her T-shirt, embossed with a sea gull and the words, "If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was."
She continued, "It's like climbing up steps. You got to climb your way up there. If you have the curiosity, you're going to be motivated. If you stand at the bottom and don't care, you'll just be there. You're going to be there forever. Ou got to reach for what you can now. Education is very important. At least it's the starting point."