You can still almost hear the collective sigh of relief.
Summer school in the District is over.
More than 13,000 students spent six weeks in classrooms for four hours a day, learning or at least relearning subjects that they failed during the regular school term.
For some students, it meant postponing trips to swimming pools, waiting to take that summer job and playing basketball a little later in the day. And for the teachers it meant taking students who would rather be some place else and motivating them to study.
"It takes the best teachers to teach summer school," said Earl Richards, summer school principal at Roosevelt High School, which had 821 students this summer.
Because of the intensity of summer school, teachers have to be creative in motivating students to remain interested in classes that combined a week's classwork into four hours each day, Richards said.
In Deborah Richmond's English class one day last week, the scene in Room 127 was a study in imaginative teaching.
In one instance, Richmond had her students write the lyrics to a rap song to fulfill a class assignment.
"A lot of the times I let them use their own ideas, and quite a lot of them are concerned about the teen-age pregnancy problem," she said of the subject about which the students choose to write. Later, in a class program, the students sang the lyrics and some even danced to them.
"At the beginning of the summer, I had them list what they thought were the top three major problems of teen-agers. And this is what they listed: teen-age pregnancy, the drugs and the dropouts."
For the students whose performances in class were more playful than studious, Richmond had a remedy -- and sometimes a witty word.
Mark Hill was in Richmond's home room last fall, when he was 30 pounds thinner. Sometimes when Hill got a little silly in summer school, Richmond would remind him that his "body is growing faster than his brain."
With levity and sternness, Richmond has turned Hill's academic career around, helping him change the F he received during the first three-week grading period into a B plus the second three weeks.
Among the remedies for his low performance, Richmond had Hill write a paragraph for his parents: "I failed to write my five paragraphs. Ms. Richmond was nice enough to give us the weekend to complete this assignment. I have missed out on 500 points and probably failing English II again. Please see to it that I complete all of my homework and please sign your name henceforth. I am sorry I disappointed you again."
It was signed "Your lovely son Mark." And it worked. But the big difference, said Mark, was his classmates. "The class told me that if I did not pass they were going to beat me up," Hill said. Asked if he believed his classmates would make good their threat, Hill nodded affirmatively. "I have learned more English this summer than I have learned in two years," he said.
Richmond's success was probably more evident in Erika Ogburn, whom she protected. Richmond announced to the class that Erika was a little nervous and shy. After noticing that Ogburn had problems with writing coordination when she copied things off the blackboard, she consulted with a special-education instructor and she assigned a classmate to help Ogburn with some of her assignments.
At the end of the semester, Richmond gave Ogburn a special certificate for her achievement. And Ogburn returned the compliment. "I think Mrs. Richmond is special because she helps people in her own special way. She more or less encourages people to do their work," said Ogburn.
Marlo Tucker, the student who helped Ogburn, also had good things to say about her summer school teacher. "Ms. Richmond has given me self-confidence in myself. Before coming to summer school I thought I was going to fail just like I did in winter school," Tucker wrote in a writing assignment. "I thank Ms. Richmond for every student in our summer school class."
Richmond, who is known by her students for providing humor to her classroom, also is credited for converting a class clown to a class scholar.
Calvin Battle used to joke around with the students and they joked back. But the difference was that while other students would get their work done, Battle would not. As a result, Battle, who had Richmond's class during the last regular school session, failed English. When Richmond had him again in her English class this summer, she separated him from other students and persuaded him to abandon his title as class clown.
"I learned to get serious with my work," said Battle, who received a B plus this summer. "She made me see that I could work hard, all I had to do was put my mind to it."